Review by - Oliver George
Synopsis: Rogue One is the first of the Star Wars spin off films set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. This film tells the story of a rag tag group of rebel soldiers that band together to steal the plans to the Empires super-weapon, the Death Star.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story first and foremost, is a film for fans. If you don't know the Star Wars films well, you may struggle to understand what is going on. It may be the first standalone Star Wars film but it comes with a heap of baggage and back story. There are jokes, cameos and references that will reward the dedicated Star Wars fan but will exclude those that are on the outside.
Rogue one feels like the clubhouse for Star Wars fan service and as a fan I was very well served.
This film is not without faults. Some of characters were not as fleshed out as they have been in previous films. Motivations were only revealed through exposition for the characters to fit in more humour. The Character of Baze Malbus is particularly undeserved with very little backstory to understand the character or why he is there. I also feel the pacing was a little off, at times the film comes to a halt. It also doesn’t utilise the time that could have been used to delve deeper into characters to help really sell the emotional impact of the films finale rather than Sci Fi exposition.
I also found the musical score by Michael Giacchino somewhat lacking. In the past, with Star Wars, the score feels like a character - here it is just there. The score is fine and inoffensive but I felt some scenes could have benefited with more care in the music that John Williams provides in his efforts.
As reports had confirmed, there was no opening crawl at the start which felt jarring at first (even having the cheek to tilt upwards in the 1st shot). I felt if any Star Wars film needed a crawl it was this one. The title we got instead looked like tacked on IMovie font.
For all the films inadequacies, its triumphs far overshadow the faults. Rogue One is the 1st time the planets of Star Wars have truly felt tangible. The cinematography by Greig Fraser is breath-taking and the over glossy days of the Prequels are long gone. Rogue One takes the War against the Empire and strengthens the parallels with the historical counterpart of World War 2, with scenes reminiscent of films such as Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse now.
Director Gareth Edwards really captures scale and awe in this film and adds a new edgy, adult imprint to the Star Wars universe that was only ever explored outside of the films before. Storm Troopers felt like people that get tired and dirty. The rebels are no longer clean cut good guys, they are war terrorists that sometimes must do things that they don't want to do. The cast are all brilliant with great chemistry among the leads.
Alan Tudyk as the hilariously cynical droid K2SO and Donnie Yen as blind warrior Churit Imwe are standouts and consistently steal scenes in a great cast that is led well by the always likeable Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso. Jones really gets to shine in the film's quieter moments, where Erso's hard exterior is broken down and we see what living under the thumb of the Empire can do to a spirit. Jyn makes for a worthy lead amongst other great women of Sci-Fi such as Ripley and Leia.
Ben Mendelsohn, as lead villain Orsen Krenick, serves as a great counter for the rag tag rebels in a performance that is over the top and subdued when necessary. One of cinema's greatest villains, Darth Vader makes his presence felt in the little screen time that he is given. Vader is a character of pure horror in one scene almost like a mythical mix of a Terminator meets Voldemort and it is excellent.
Rogue One adds layers that will forever change the way I watch the other films going forward, in a way that enhances them. I will never watch A New Hope in the same way after experiencing this film. The film also makes great leaps in terms of technology with some characters from the past bought back through the use stunning motion capture work with great results that served the story well. I feel that this technology will open new discussions in the film community in terms of ethics, it is effective and justified well in this film.
The final battle in the films climax is something to behold with fights in the air and the ground it really feels like a ride. The battle on Scarif more than rivals Hoth and Endor in terms of cinematic battles.
Despite its flaws, Rogue One is a great experience and has definitely become the best prequel film, even if it is not the best Star Wars movie. The first spin-off film is certainly a game changer for a long time ago in a Galaxy far far away.
Roll on Episode 8....