Summary: Jyn Erso, an ex-Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to embark on her biggest challenge yet when the Rebel Alliance sets her out on a mission to bridge the gap with extremists, and locate her scientist father, thought to be an Empire collaborator. With help from the Rebels, a guardian of the Jedi, and non-allied forces, Jyn will be in for something bigger than she thinks – to steal the plans for the Death Star!
Okay, confession-time: I’m not a fan of Gareth Edwards – I thought Monsters was over-rated (may I need to see it again?) and I absolutely hated Godzilla. But credit where it’s due, the Force is strong with Mr Edwards, and with Rogue One, he has delivered the prequel that the Star Wars faithful had always deserved, but been denied to date. In Rogue One (or Episode 3.5 as it is trending), Edwards has delivered a back-ground story that we all took for granted, and thought we pretty much knew, in the most perfect way, and managing to do it with a cast of wholly new protagonists. The film pays scant screen time to the established SW universe names: Vader is in it for all of 5 mins; there is no Solo, or Yoda or Chewie. And the film is all the more enjoyable for it.
The story bridges the events at the end of Episode 3 to the start of Episode 4, and I liken it to watching a historical war film, and by that I mean we all know the outcome, so it’s the journey – how the story is told – that really matters. And in some parts, it really plays like a war-film. Edwards is clearly a fan of modern war films, as some of the set pieces are reminiscent of the best Vietnam War beach landing or Middle-East occupation terrorist attack movies ever made. Visually the film is flawless – on 70mm IMAX it really is a thing of beauty to behold, and the location scouts had as much fun finding these great locations as the CGI team did augmenting them. And speaking of CGI, I have to say it met all expectations – apart from many of the characterisations, I haven’t felt this impressed about interstellar dogfights since I saw A New Hope all those decades ago. And the musical score, especially during the last 30 minutes or so, is the icing on the cake…
Comparing this to The Force Awakens is unfair – both have totally different agendas: the Force awakens reunites the old crew to introduce the new, and build on a new trilogy, whereas this is a single shot end-to-end; and it’s for that reason alone I nudge this ahead of The Force Awakens, because it did that so well and invested in the characters pretty much from the off. And what great characters they were: Felicity Jones is spot on with her turn as Jyn Erso, and though it took me a little longer to grow on him, so did Diego Luna; Donnie Yen & Wen Jiang go large on the peripheral as a pair with a lot of great chemistry together – imagine an older Han Solo with Ben Kenobi doing a buddy movie; breakout star for me was Riz Ahmed, as the pilot carrying a key message for the Rebels – I thought he was just going to be on the peripheral too, but he stepped and claimed his stake in the ensemble, and Ben Mendelsohn made his mark as a proper old school villain. And speaking of old villains, I won’t spoil to say that Edwards has reclaimed Vader as the ferocious villain that his is – don’t blink when he’s on screen! Rogue One has also given us a new droid, K2-SO (voiced wonderfully by Alan Tudyk), who gets almost all the best lines in the film. On the downside, heavyweights Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker seem to coasting it, especially when you compare the latter’s recent turn in Doctor Strange; Whitaker is just over-the-top.
In summary, I’ll give this a 5/5 – and it thoroughly deserves it. I now finally put episodes 1 to 3 firmly behind me, and really look forward to not only Episodes 8 & 9, but any other standalone SW movies if they are made in the same spirit – a dose of the Force delivered this way can give you renewed hope…
Rogue One: Star War Story is on general release now in 3D & IMAX
GS Blogger: SilverFox
GS Rating: 5/5