"Rogue One" is a safe thrill ride with great special effects
The “Star Wars” revival is in full-force, but for many, the Force never died. Last year, fans were bestowed with “The Force Awakens,” one of the best films in the series since “Return of the Jedi.” With Episodes VIII and IX still to come, along with Han Solo and Boba Fett spin-off movies, fans can anticipate lots of entertaining content. Although some feel anxious about the new movies mostly due to the lackluster prequel trilogy, it seems the world is in for a future filled with intergalactic bliss. “Rogue One” is the beginning of what could be a supply of satisfying Star Wars anthology movies.
“Rogue One” is essentially Episode 3.5; it takes place after the Jedi-genocide, but before the introduction of Luke Skywalker. Although most characters are new, there are some familiar faces. Darth Vader (voiced again by James Earl Jones ) and a realistic CGI version of Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows") play minor roles in the story, though both have enough screen time to satisfy longtime fans. New protagonists Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, “Y Tu Mamá También”) act as multidimensional and convincing heroes to root for in their fight against the Empire. Alan Tudyk (“Zootopia”) voices K-2SO, an Imperial droid reprogrammed to fight for the rebels, who is one of the best additions to the “Star Wars” series. Like C-3PO, he balances intellect and cynicism perfectly, and his cheesy jokes and sassy remarks make K-2SO one of the funniest “Star Wars” characters to date.
Unlike other “Star Wars” movies, there is an overarching sense of doom and imminent failure. “Rogue One” shows a struggling Rebel Force that does not have the means to defend itself against enemy forces. Other movies in the series tend to have a sense of hope, even in situations least deserving of it. “Rogue One” shows glimpses of it, but remains the gloomiest in the series.
The story of “Rogue One” is complex while remaining coherent. Someone who has never seen a “Star Wars” movie could pick up the plot just as easily as a diehard fanatic, though the latter may find the minor nuances more enjoyable. Among the intense battle scenes and stunning settings, “Rogue One” challenges the idea that in the cosmic fight between good and evil, the line between right and wrong, is clear. The “good guys” in the movie are a group varying from Imperial pilots to reprogrammed Imperial droids and disobedient Rebel soldiers. “Rogue One” is the first “Star Wars” movie to show a two-sided Rebel Force that is not strictly a representation of good.
“Rogue One” diverts enough from the typical “Star Wars” formula while remaining faithful to the tropes that make them so fun. Fans will be relieved that no Jar Jar Binks replicas or cringe-worthy romantic subplots are introduced. Every addition is justified and fits into the “Star Wars” timeline perfectly. Still, since the movie is not a part of the main series, more could have been done to distinguish it from the others. This was a golden opportunity for director Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) to incorporate some unique cinematography and experimentation that would have made it clearer that “Rogue One” is just an addition to the series. In many ways, “Rogue One” plays it too safe. Nonetheless, the special effects provide a thrill.
“Rogue One” is certainly not the best "Star Wars" movie, but it’s a welcomed addition to the franchise. Diehard fans now have some material to keep them happy until the eighth installment is released in 2017. Until then, expectations are high for what’s to come.
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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures