Even though this movie was spoiled almost 40 years ago with the opening crawl to Star Wars in 1977 there are still moments that will be a surprise to the audience. This is a spoiler heavy review so if you have not seen Rogue One jump over here to read the Non Spoiler review. You have been warned.
Rogue One is the story of Jyn Erso and how she joined the Rebel Alliance on one of their most important missions. Jyn is the daughter of Galen Erso who was the engineer behind the Death Star, the Empires Ultimate weapon. Jyn will team up with Cassian Andor a Rebel Captain, Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus former Guardians of the Whills on Jehda, Bohdi Rook an Imperial Pilot turned defector and K-2SO a forme Imperial Droid in an attempt to rescue Galen Erso and stop the Empires war machine.
All these characters worked extremely well together, and the way they came together is believable. There is no moment similar to Suicide Squad where a group of people who have known each other for all of 24 hours come together as a family. They work together out of survival and desire for freedom, which creates a stronger dynamic. Like BB-8 did for The Force Awakens, K-2SO is everyone’s new favourite droid. He has no filter and says the first thing he thinks which is often very funny and can change the mood of a scene. Chirrut Imwe portrayed by Donnie Yen is another stand out character, as the blind former Guardian of the Jedi Temple. What makes this character special is his connection to the force, whilst not being a Jedi. In the prequels George Lucas introduced midichlorians (the gene inside Jedi that make them force sensitive) and a million voices suddenly cried out in terror as being a Jedi moved from being spiritual to scientific. The way Chirrut, a non-Jedi, is able to connect with the force and guide him through battle, as well as pray to the force returns hope that midichlorians are now just a bad memory. Chirrut is also an extremely entertaining character to watch, especially when he fights storm troopers on Jedha with just his bow staff or shoots down a Tie Fighter in flight. Jyn Erso is proof that Disney can make strong female leads for their Star Wars movies. The character is extremely different from Rey in the Force Awakens but we still get a strong female character that leads the group of Rebels into battle. Felicity Jones was awesome in her fight sequences, in particular a scene when she surprise attacks storm troopers with a baton, stealing a blaster and shooting the rest. One character I believe was used perfectly was Darth Vader, one of the greatest movie villains of all time. He is in only a few scenes but they have incredible impact. The scene where Krennic goes to Vader’s castle on Mustafar resembles some of the early art work of Vader during the production phase of Episode 4. Though the best sequence of the film may just be the final scene with Vader igniting his lightsabre in the dark to then cut through rebel troops as he attempts to recover the stolen Death Star plans.
As a massive fan of the Star Wars movies, this film was brilliant for the way it tied in to the original trilogy, in particular episode IV. The movie is full of throwbacks to the Original trilogy with a subtle mention of Obi Wan Kenobi, the mention and shot of Princess Leia, and perhaps most importantly the inclusion of Red and Gold squadron members who were in episode IV. With this inclusion the Director used additional footage from 1977 that did not make the final cut, digitally remastered it and input it into the final space battle so we see the same actors in Rogue One as we did in A New Hope. Though this is a move that only Star Wars fans would pick up on it demonstrates how detail and how much effort Gareth Edwards put into this movie. The decision to digitally recreate Governor Tarkin, who was played by the late Peter Cushing in Episode IV, paid off well as he looked incredible, whilst using the ‘Benjamin Button’ technology to de-age Carrie Fisher for the final moments of the film gave Star Wars fans something to cheer about. Its moments like these and even some smaller ones like the shot of ‘blue milk’ in the opening sequence that make this a great movie for Star Wars Fans.
Something else new that Rogue one did was included the expanded universe created by the Star Wars TV series Clone Wars (2008-2015) and Rebels (2014-). Saw Gerrara played by Forest Whitaker was originally a character from the Clone Wars who fought against the Droid Army through guerrilla warfare; he was also trained by Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader. He is the first character to come from the animated series to the movies. There are also some references linked to Rebels, which tells the story of the start of the Rebellion set 5 years before Rogue One. The biggest reference was on Yavin 4 when the loud speaker calls out to General Syndulla, a call out to Hera Syndulla, Captain of the Ghost and early leader of the Rebellion. We also get to see a shot of Chopper, the droid who works with the main characters on Rebels, on Yavin 4. There is also a shot of the Ghost, the ship from Rebels, seen during the final space battle, though it is unclear if the ship survives.
Perhaps one of the biggest risks versus reward moments for the movie was the ending of the film. The decision to kill of all the characters seems like an obvious one since non of them are in the Original Trilogy but it still does not seem like Disney’s style to kill off everyone. Not only kill of everyone but also show them each die in battle, which has a surprising emotional impact even though you do expect the characters to die. I expected the movie to end on Alderaan where we just assume the character die thanks to the Death Star.
I believe that this film did a fantastic job as a stand-alone movie that exists in the Star Wars Universe. I think that the comments about fan service are irrelevant as the movie acknowledges its place in the time line by showing you some of the characters from the Original Trilogy in their roles before those movies. In fact Rogue One can enhance the view of A New Hope as it becomes evident just how desperate the Rebellion was after losing so much in the Battle on Scarif. Sure it is great to see Vader swing his lightsabre and cut down people like it is nothing, but it also goes to show why he is the most feared person in the galaxy. Seeing the other cameos makes sense, as these are important people in the Star Wars lore. After a second viewing I still love this film and cannot wait to see it for a third time.