In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
I don’t think I have to convince anyone of how big this is. Star Wars returned to prominence last year with The Force Awakens. Along with two additional episodic films within the next four years, three spinoff films, or Star Wars stories, were to be released as well. The first of those three films was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a prequel to A New Hope, dramatizing how a group of rebels stole the plans to the Death Star.
It’s easy to be skeptical of a film with a new, original story fitting within the Star Wars universe but it worked very well. Nothing felt unfamiliar or looked out of place when compared to past films. The biggest challenge it had to face was introducing new characters which we knew little to nothing about. The film started off by depicting how the lead, a woman named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), came to be. Jyn’s father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) was taken away from her at an early age by Empire Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to continue his work on the Death Star, forcing her to mostly fend for herself. The film then quickly traveled amongst the remaining characters until they inevitably came together.
This fact brings up one of the few faults of the film. Even though the film introduced new characters, the film barely gave us enough time to make any type of connection, making some less memorable than others and lessening their impact. The only characters getting any real attention were Jyn and Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). They were the first to meet and their relationship blossomed from there. Andor and the rebel alliance needed Jyn because of her connection to her father. They needed her to get to him as he had a message for the rebels about the Death Star.
Everybody knows what followed but this was easy to forget as the story was exciting to watch, exploring new areas within the Star Wars universe. This all was to try and find Galen. Characters clashed as they all had different intentions for Galen as some saw him as good and some evil. The knowledge of the Death Star caused immense strain within the alliance as they disagreed on the appropriate course of action. Because of Jyn’s affiliation with her father, convincing dignitaries proved to be a tough challenge.
The film’s great production values were most evident in its many action sequences. They were all very well done and thrilling. From the shooting, the explosions, and the many space battles, the film had a lot to offer. These sequences were heightened by the immersive cinematography and sound design. A massive battle sequence during the last third of the film, simultaneously taking place on land and in the sky/space was the best representation of this. It almost felt like a WWII film from the way it was shot.
It wasn’t that the other characters weren’t important, it was just that the film didn’t give them a fair opportunity to shine. They still had their moments, however, as they did occasionally have their moments. Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) was the Empire defector who delivered Galen’s message, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) was a wise, blind man who could fight using the Force (allegedly), and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) was his friend and bodyguard. All five had good chemistry but the film could have gone much further with them as a little more character development would have strengthened their relationship.
The acting was good with Jones and Luna being the standouts. Jones was perfectly capable of carrying the film and Jyn’s emotional load. She was relatable and her progression was compelling to watch. She and Andor are the only characters with any complexity and depth and Jones and Luna did a great job at bringing these to life. They were both strong characters who would often butt heads and their chemistry made this relationship even more believable.
Yen as Îmwe and Jiang as Malbus stole some scenes but Alan Tudyk as Andor’s reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO stole more. He brought some much needed levity to the film with his many witty and sarcastic lines and he wasn’t just a comic relief character but was also a useful one. Mendelsohn was good as Krennic in limited screen time. Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera stood out for the wrong reasons as he and/or his character simply did not work.
Overall, this was still a great entry in the Star Wars series which fans should be familiar to fans and that non-fans should also enjoy. It introduced many new characters that could have been handled a little better.
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