REVIEWS

Review: Edwards' 'Rogue One' Delivers the War for 'Star Wars' Fans

by
December 16, 2016

Rogue One Review

The new regime behind the Star Wars franchise came with a promise to the die-hard fans of the world. We would be offered one, new entry into the series every year until the brand became old and tired or until the stars overhead burned out, whichever came first. That meant every other film would take a side step away from the main saga and branch out into the ever-expanding universe surrounding it. This meant something as trivial as the first paragraph of A New Hope's opening crawl could be fleshed out into a feature film, which is what they've done with Rogue One, the first of many Star Wars stories to come. What looks like fodder to fill out the Star Wars release slate on paper, though, ends up delivering the freshness this beloved franchise desperately needed and all the excitement those die-hard fans have come to expect.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does wonders with the brief explanation George Lucas initially offered at the beginning of his first Star Wars film. The story of a small band of rebels who obtained the blueprints to the original Death Star was fine as a throwaway introduction into this universe, but the film that has grown out of that snippet of information is something that handily transcends its original intent. Rogue One puts the "war" back into Star Wars. That's something of a ridiculous statement to make about a series of films steeped in the idea of war, but the franchise has often been bogged down with the love stories and family dramas that Lucas always seemed so interested in.

A mission movie on the surface, Rogue One does a stellar job delivering the memorable characters and interesting situations that are a prerequisite for this universe. Deeper still, though, it packs an emotional core the Star Wars universe has been unable to achieve with more recent entries, and, despite falling victim to typical, fan-boy trappings, Rogue One becomes the all-inclusive story for which fans have been waiting.

Chief among those memorable characters is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a loner in the Star Wars universe who becomes enveloped by the ongoing war through her family ties. You see, Jyn's father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), is the engineer responsible for the Empire's latest weapon of mass destruction, the Death Star. Forced to construct the weapon against his will, Galen has built in a semblance of hope deep within the massive space station, a way for the Rebel Alliance to bring the weapon down. Naturally, Galen's love for his estranged daughter puts the key to discovering the Death Star's weakness squarely into her hands. It isn't long before the Rebels recruit Jyn to find that weakness and the means for bringing the Empire's superweapon down. We all know how that turns out, don't we.

This is the first aspect to Rogue One that should be commended. Under the direction of Gareth Edwards (Monsters and 2014's Godzilla), the film does a fine job in holding onto the suspense despite foreknowledge of how the events will transpire. We know the Rebels eventually do obtain the schematics for the Death Star. We know the Rebel Alliance brings the massive battle station down. We ultimately know the Empire falls amidst an obnoxious, Ewok celebration. None of that matters as the events transpire throughout Rogue One. Quite the contrary. Edwards and the team of screenwriters involved do wonderful work expanding the Star Wars universe while simultaneously delivering a gangbuster epic of a war film and all that goes with it.

Rogue One Review

With a few, minor tweaks the story that unfolds within Rogue One could easily be converted into a fine World War II story, or any run-of-the-mill war, for that matter. The sight of Imperial troops and vehicles laying waste to a city and its population purposefully calls to mind the image of Nazi troops rolling through burnt-out communities. The concepts and themes Rogue One injects into the characters and situations are universal putting the film's story well within the grasp of general understanding. This instills an importance to the events playing out that isn't found in open-ended entries the franchise has given us thus far. At the same time it delivers fully on what is expected in the realm of Star Wars, feature films.

Jyn Erso is a very capable hero at the forefront of the film's story, but even her character is allowed room for growth, something the screenwriters utilize with each, passing moment. The team of Rebels aiding in her quest are as eclectic and interesting as any group of otherworldly beings the franchise has delivered despite their makeup being primarily of the human variety. The ragtag Rebel group is led by Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), an undercover agent and recruiter for the Alliance. Andor's role among the Rebels is itself an interesting one, the tasks the Alliance sets for him speaking volumes on the gray area these new Star Wars films seem to be infusing within the group.

Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen play Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, respectively, their roles as badasses in the Galaxy without an initial allegiance letting us in on the hardships and travesties the Empire is laying on the citizens of this world. Riz Ahmed's role of Bodhi Rook is that of a former Imperial pilot who has defected to the Rebel Alliance, an element that places an idea of precedence after the fact on The Force Awakens' Finn and his decisions about which side he fights. Alan Tudyk voices the crew's lone, non-human member: K-2SO, a former Imperial droid who has been reprogrammed and who offers Rogue One that bit of droid-based humor that has become a necessity for all Star Wars films.

The group maintains many different facets about the Star Wars universe, some of which we're already aware. Yen's Chirrut has faith in the Force, though he's not a Jedi. Cassian's own faith in the Alliance raises questions about blindly following orders regardless of the results. The character motivations – Rebels and Empire – are clearly presented, the battle lines being drawn all the more palpable and impactful to the surrounding world. Rogue One's ability in crafting such an engaging, war story is only hindered by the film's desire for fan service.

It isn't that the film is jam-packed with awkward pokes at your fandom. Sparingly as they are, though, the placement could be a bit smoother. These moments for the fans come in the guise of familiar characters from previous films popping up in random and not-so-random spots and little bits of dialogue whose only presence is familiarity.

One of Rogue One's important characters is one who we've seen before, the actor who made the character famous having passes away in recent years. That isn't stopping the wonders of modern, digital technology from bringing the actor back to life for a number of key scenes. Despite the uncanny valley associated with such a thing, it's an impressive endeavor that the filmmakers and technicians here very nearly pull off. The obviousness of the fan service does make it somewhat difficult to ingest, though.

Rogue One Review

In most instances, though, Rogue One utilizes well the familiarity of this universe fans will be bringing to the table. The high marks regarding this come from the planets and locations we've seen before and the way Edwards and crew handle Darth Vader here. The couple of scenes in which the iconic Sith lord makes an appearance are suspenseful from the character we know him to be, but they're all the more intense when Rogue One shows us something we've never seen before. Vader is a presence here, one that could almost be identified as death incarnate, and it will only whet the appetites of fans who are always craving more from the more popular characters.

Rogue One stands and delivers on all that it promises: a fun adventure with a dark wartime edge that builds story and characters wonderfully in its finite runtime. For that matter, it may actually be the perfect movie for non-Star Wars viewers to dive into this world, something on which the filmmakers behind it are likely counting. The acting is solid across the board, Forrest Whitaker and Ben Mendelssohn playing extremely well with their respective, opposing roles of resistance leader and Imperial middle management.

The window dressing Edwards and his crew lay down gives the overall experience that necessary spark of creativity that has you coming back for more. Chief among these is the glorious score composer Michael Giacchino has conceived, his individual tracks harkening back to the familiar music of John Williams but with their own, memorable themes. It's just a cherry on top of the already exquisite sundae at work in this story from the Star Wars universe.

War has always been an obvious staple in this universe, but Rogue One is the first Star Wars experience in a long time – maybe ever – that could be qualified as an out-and-out war movie. On top of the surface-level excitement the film delivers on strong characters and the gradual expanding of this world, both those who inhabit it as well as the fabric that makes it up. With the internal development driving the emotions and a whopping, sci-fi adventure taking place on the outside, it isn't difficult to recognize Rogue One as the very best war movie the Star Wars universe has to offer (so far).

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  • TheOct8pus
    Aww....fine....I guess I'll go see this....
  • Xerxexx
    Are you kidding me!? I am blind! I loved it. Simply loved it. Want more Vader in future films!
    • Hopefully no one will grant your wish. Enough of the old stuff.
  • Vos_L
    The fan service criticism has become a lazy, generic critique. Putting something in a film that is enjoyable for the people paying to watch it is somehow a bad thing? None of the ties to the existing SW universe felt awkward or forced or out of place. This movie told its own tale but also was integrated quite seamlessly into the SW universe.
    • 2001HAL
      Jeremy Kirk was apparently fine The Force Awakens being a remake of A New Hope. Don't expect much.
      • ErrorSapiens
        Fuck I hate Latte, its such a remake of Coffe.
        • TheOct8pus
          It's more of a spinoff....maybe you could call it a soft reboot
  • 2001HAL
    Keep in mind this site LOVED The Force Awakens...so take their reviews with a mountain sized helping of salt.
    • Xerxexx
      Difference of opinion. I enjoyed TFA.
      • Mark
        I loved TFA. Great fun.
    • Kareem
      Yeah...the force awakens was really blasphemous. It stained the beautiful world of george lucas's earlier films..and what grieves me the most that it selled itself as a worthy of star wars unlike mr lucas's 3 new episodes!!!
      • He doesn't understand sarcasm. Better to talk to him as a 5 year old boy, which he is.
    • Uh, wow, our reviews are not legit because we enjoyed a movie? That's some petty nonsense... Come on now, everyone is allowed to have their own opinion (especially about movies).
      • It's not nonsense. It's Bob striking back again...
  • DAVIDPD
    We kind of knew how it would play it out in the end, but was watching it unfold fun! In IV, V, and VI we heard and kind of saw the badass Vader, but here we got two minutes of a fully realized and terrifying Darth Vader that was pretty much perfect.
    • Jimmy Rabbitte
      I couldn't agree more. In fact, I scrolled down to the talk back section intending to say as much. I loved every bit of the Darth Vader story in this movie. He came across as truly menacing (Sorry for using that word, but he *was* menacing; and this movie showed us all what the true menace of a Sith Lord really is... Episode I didn't even come close compared to this film.) I loved the planet he was living on, which George Lucas' original 1970's scripts referred to as Had Abaddon. I, also loved the horror movie vibe of "the tank" scene and I really loved his last scene. They could have shoehorned him into more scenes... but why? The time he gets utilizes the character so perfectly, it basically becomes, in two or so minutes of screen time, the most convincing argument for how ill conceived the prequel trilogy story really was.
      • DAVIDPD
        That planet was the only one, I think, they didn't put a title on. I think it was the same one from Episode 3, the same one where Anakin was killed.
  • Charles Knowlton
    Should we start calling this The Empire Strikes Back since The Force Awakens was just a remake of Star Wars?
    • Tone wise maybe. But it really had its own thing going on. TFA was clearly a reboot. R1 really isn't a reboot of Empire in my book. That will be EP8. :)
  • Mxyzptlk
    Characters weren't compelling, didn't care if they lived or died. The movie could have added more in other parts if they took out the unnecessary intro. Starting with Jyn waking up would have been just fine, there was enough exposition about her family in the rest of the film. The music was terrible, mixing of John Williams stuff with random sounds completely removed me from the experience of the film. The thrown in kissy faces in the last minute was awful.
  • I really liked it. I thought it was a lot better than TFA. Very surprised how dark this movie was. So many Easter eggs and that ending. Wow. The transition into Ep 4 was just perfect. My fav character was K-2S0. Loved what they did with him. I thought everyone did a good job. However of course it wasn't perfect. Here are my nitpicks: - Title card. Wtf. No Star Wars logo? It was just weird. I did not like it. - Pacing. You can tell this movie went through a lot of editing. Missing some of the scenes from the trailers. *SPOILER* - The Cushing CG just wasn't great. Close but not there yet IMO. - in my theater (IMAX) the overall Sound mix was very weak. And my biggest issue with the film: The Music I know its lame for a composer to critic another composer but I'm speaking as a fan here. The music didn't work. It just didn't. I realize he only had 4 weeks to do this but its a shame to rush the music when the movie is so good. But I guess it is what it is. Overall better than expected.
    • Giacchino is a great composer, but he isn't yet in the same league as the Maestro. So it's hard for him ( and for anyone ) to deliver something as powerful as a JW score. But he is very talented. I loved his work for Star Trek and Incredibles. I had the chance to listen to his Rogue One score. It didn't impress me. It lacks memorable themes.
      • Disagree. Morricone is great, Horner is one of the greats, Howard Shore, Williams etc. Michael is talented for sure but great? Star Trek was bland IMO. But again 4 weeks. Its a tough job. Aside from the score I thought the mix wasn't really dynamic. During the space battle at the end I didn't feel any impact or power of the music or sound fx. Maybe it was the theater. I dunno. Will have to see it again.
        • Moricone isn't great, he's a legend, in the same league as Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and Basil Poledouris. Horner? Well, he's an interesting composer. He made one masterpiece: Aliens score, and few very interesting pieces (Gladiator, Willow). But he used to plagiarize himself by reusing many themes and motifs from his previous work. Howard Shore is without any question a great composer. Him and the underrated Bruce Broughton.
          • 2001HAL
            one masterpiece and you pick Aliens? LOL
    • 2001HAL
      I agree with you 100% on the music.
    • RAW_D
      I agree with everything you said aside from the Cushing CGI. It's the closest thing I've seen to recreating a human in film and having it look mostly viable. It's the eyes though. They'll never have a soul lol. But damn that score felt off!
  • grimjob
    Loved it. Love Star Wars. Don't want a goddamn young Solo movie.
    • TheOct8pus
      Agreed 100%
    • And I don't want a goddamn old Indy either. But they will make them both alas...
      • grimjob
        I actually do want an old Indy, so long as there's a decent story to move him along. He was fine in Kingdom, it was the rest of the movie that was bullshit. Old Solo was tough, and old Deckard looks promising. I guess I just have a man-crush on old grizzled Harrison Ford.
        • He was in a better shape in TFA than he was in Crystal thing. I don't know. He didn't age well. I could have bought it when he was 50 or 60. But past 70 it simply doesn't work. What made indy so interesting and charming was his dashing personality and vigour.
  • 2001HAL
    Saw it today. Absolutely loved it. Thought it was 10x the movie TFA was. What didn't work for me was the music and the missing opening crawl. Future composers need to incorporate more of the original themes. I'm sorry but the music is just as key to the Star Wars universe as anything else.
    • TheOct8pus
      He did incorporate some of the main themes on occasion, but for the most part, his "original" score was pretty boring background music, and his emotional themes were uninspired. Allegedly they gave him 4 weeks to write the score, so maybe it would have been better had they given him more time.
      • background music. that is exactly the wording that suits this score. Save maybe the Empire theme Medley which had a good WWII vibe.
        • RAW_D
          That was one of my biggest gripes was the score. It felt off, and there were semblances of familiarity and then there would be a jarring off key weirdness. I understand you don't want to directly copy Williams, but the choices made often times made me think "This... doesn't sound like Star Wars."
  • TheOct8pus
    I enjoyed it. I felt that the first half was very slow and clunky, but by the 3rd act they had their shit together and delivered a thrilling ending. The characters were all lovable, albeit a bit one dimensional at times - but it's hard to flesh out 8-10 characters who have such a short existence in this long saga - so I think they did the best they could with their limited time. My only nitpicks: I really wish they'd stop trying to resurrect dead actors through CGI. CG Peter Cushing looked completely fake. You just had to look into his eyes (which were cross-eyed) to see that he was not human. He had way too much screen time, and too many close ups that just distracted from the movie (IMO). They should have used him more sparingly, in less well lit sets. They could have given Vader some of his lines and it would've been fine. Ditto for the Leia cameo at the end. She looked like a 50 year old woman with 2 tons of makeup on. The Vader rage spree was pretty awesome at the end, but this scene happens literally a few days before the final battle between Vader and Obi Wan, so it's a bit hard to believe that he got so slow and lame in that short period...
    • That's the main problem with this kind of franchise. They can't help themselves from bringing the same old characters over and over, and revisiting the same old places over and over. It's like Star Wars became a tiny place in the far west, where everyone knows everyone.
  • deerosa
    I thought it was great. Peter Cushing had too much screen time in my opinion. When you have that much screen time for a CGI character people will pick it apart. Maybe an over the shoulder shot or relfection shot would have been better. I didn't have a problem with it like the majority of people on imdb did. I was sold and on board with the characters as well. The Vader scene was probably one of the best scenes ever in a Star Wars movie? If not its definitely Top 3, that scene was Epic on so many levels. That's how you clear a room. Definitely ties in nicely with a New Hope.
    • Higgens
      Yeh Tarkin should have been kept out of frame or on the far side of the room out of focus a bit, looked totally fake.
  • Fr33th1nk3r
    I do NOT understand the negative critiques of this film-- and I am normally RUTHLESS when it comes to sci-fi. I am glad as hell they did not allow Jar-Jar Abrams OR George Lucas anywhere near this movie! This was one of the best Star Wars films to date. This was one of the first movies in a LONG TIME that I have gone to see in a theater, and actually was so drawn into it-- I did not notice that my leg went to sleep about halfway through the movie, as I did not move an inch the whole time. This was the dark, gritty, deadly serious, Star Wars movie the older fans like me have been waiting for. Everything in this was a departure form the SW norms-- darker, more violent movie, darker, more believable characters, and it lacked the goofy aliens and Jedi antics that helped turn a majority of the rest of the Star Wars movies into lite comedies. They built tension early on and did not let off the gas pedal until the movie ended. The pacing was perfect. They take the time to slowly introduce the characters and the setting properly, instead of rushing into combat or an action scene just to hold the attention of the younger fanboys who have 3-second attention spans. The story was sound and left none of the usual plot loopholes and questions. it even went so far as to explain why the Empire built such a ridiculous vulnerability into their first Death Star that it could be destroyed by a one-man stunt craft. Some of the critiques of this movie leave me baffled. 1) There was no usual opening scrolling monologue or Star Wars logo. This was not supposed to be a part of the main continuum of SW installments. Like the Battle for Endor, this movie takes place in the SW universe, but it's style, focus, scope, and reason for being told are totally different from the main series of movies and are unique. Think of this as more of a historical documentary, set in the Star Wars universe. 2) First half of the movie was slow. No it wasn't! They actually took the time to develop the cast of characters and the setting, in a way that did not feel rushed or urgent, just so they can get to the fighting and action. Folks who felt this way are the types who need to see an explosion or car flying through the air at a minimum of 5 minute intervals or their attention span fails them. 3) Star Wars movies all have the same characters, just different names. Couldn't be father from the truth on this one. The characters in this movie were very 3-dimensional, and well developed, as opposed to the usual stereotypical "good guys" with spotless pasts. The main character was a repeat offender convict. The other was an assassin who has shot people in the back before. Others? A disgraced monk, his bodyguard. We had a faction of violent extremists who were fighting the empire independently from the Alliance. This Star Wars movie had shades of gray in it repertoire and was sophisticated enough to have characters who were more than the suaul Star Wars cardboard cutouts. 4) Jyn Erso and Ando had no "chemistry". This was NOT a love story. Again, some movie viewers need the overt; they actually need to so Spock and Uhurua making out in the elevator-- they can't figure it out themselves. Both Jyn and Ando were FLAWED people, who had long since killed off their emotions. It was understood they could never be lovers-- but at the end, they had grown to appreciate and honor each other enough to smile at each other right before getting vaporized together. Generally, younger viewers will have a harder time with this movie. Those of us that grew up wtih Episode IV, V, VI-- loved this movie.
    • deerosa
      You nailed it! Bravo!
    • III
      Comment of the year for the movie of the year! I don't think future Star Wars films can do what Rouge One has done to me.
  • Higgens
    I found it to be enjoyable, nothing mind blowing. Characters were ok, the droid was the best one followed by Donnie Yen and his turret toting friend. The score...if you can call the music in this movie a score, was dreadful. It was what I would imagine a direct to dvd knock of Star Wars to have for music. Like all of Edwards work there are LOTS of slow bits. Though this is miles beyond Fordzilla. Solid 8/10
  • Payne by name
    I saw it last night and was a little disappointed. It just felt uninvolving to me. I had deliberately kept my expectations low but it felt really generic. The K2 character was nowhere near as 'snarky' as I had seen some describe him. Forest Whittaker felt wasted, Ben Mendelson's overracting was distracting and the destruction scene in Jeddah had that similar Roland Emmerich 2012 'it looks pretty but I'm feeling no tension or any peril'. On the plus side the last third was good when it felt a lot darker and heroes were having their little death montages. I liked the cleverness of pushing the powerless star destroyer into another and the Vader tunnel scene at the end was easily the best thing in the film. Jedi's only ever seem to fight with good intentions so to see him employing his 'trade' so aggressively was a real sight to behold. You could feel the terror of the guys that were trapped in the tunnel with him. Maybe it would be better on a second viewing but the film didn't get my heart racing, it didn't generate an emotional connection and it felt all very tick boxey. There was no laughing in the screening that I saw and I think only one or two moments (powerless destroyer and rampaging Vader) that made me turn to my friends with a wow. Maybe I'm expecting too much, maybe I've seen too many films but for all the talent that Disney's money could buy I had hoped for something a little more.
  • RAW_D
    I saw it last night and here are my thoughts (Beware potential spoilers): Felt the first act was slow, but necessary. LOVED the exhaust system rationale. Acting, casting and story was well done. Loved the cameos. They didn't feel forced, but natural. Appreciated the gray areas the Rebellion operated in. A perspective never really explored before. Third act made up for the slowness, and I commend them on not pulling any punches! Very dark and appropriately displaying sacrifices made in war. This felt more like the Star Wars of old, and less like fan service, but honoring the canon. The lead into episode IV was awesome. My gripes: The score felt off and odd at times. Some of the more emotional scenes felt rushed. It's...kinda depressing lol. Overall it was a bit underwhelming because you knew what was coming, but I liked it much better than the Force Awakens. But now, I want a Jedi spin-off movie! Give us a post Order 66 following Jedi escaping Vader's hunters. JEDI FIGHTS! JEDI FIGHTS! JEDI FIGHTS! Rant end.

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