For the first Star Wars film that isn’t part of the main storyline, Rogue One delivered a solid entry into building out the Star Wars universe with a compelling plot, rich music, quippy humor, and exciting visuals. If you’re ready for spoiler-filled details, go rogue with me.
I’ve been much more critical of storylines as of late, partly because I’ve been treated to great plots that I wish the industry would make their stories great above all things. Without a solid story, you’re just making money and missing the bigger picture to impact people’s lives with this artform.
Off that soapbox, Rogue One’s premise was well conceived. The story has the benefit and the trap of predestination: we know how it’s going to end. But I’ve found lately that I enjoy this story setup quite a bit. It’s one possible tell of a great story to be able to present the lofty goal to the audience and exceed their expectations when you take them there.
Having Jyn Erso’s father be the one who helped build the Death Star only to design it with a critical flaw served two purposes. One, it made him a thankless hero who served for fifteen years as a lie to protect his daughter. Two, it made the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, much more plausible for Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star with two photon torpedoes.
Similarly, they took an opportunity to showcase Darth Vader’s menacing power in the universe. It was great to see him single-handedly wipe out teams of Rebel soldiers for the Death Star plans.
I also appreciated the lack of romance between the two main characters, Jyn and Cassian, but allowed for other types of love to be threaded: friendship, duty, and parental.
While the final battle had strong moments of sacrifice, it didn’t quite hit me as emotionally as Batman’s sacrifice in The Dark Knight Rises. It might’ve been that I didn’t have as much time with the characters (one movie vs. three).
Visual highlights include:
- Shadow of the Death Star’s last component’s installation revealing a Star Destroyer, a great homage and variation on similar shots from the trilogy.
- The destruction of Jedha by the Death Star.
- Scarif’s beach battle sequence with guerrilla warfare from the rebels.
- Scarif’s shield station battle in space, it’s the best Star Wars space battle I’ve seen since Return of the Jedi.
- Darth Vader’s entrance onto the Rebel cruiser to retrieve the Death Star plans.
I don’t envy Michael Giacchino’s job of scoring Rogue One, but he did a magnificent job introducing new themes alongside John Williams’ classic score. My favorite piece came at the credits:
My main criticisms are small in comparison to the successes. Several movie clichés bothered me, such as death speeches in the middle of battles, incompetent aim from the stormtroopers, and exposition before the main villain attempts to finish off the hero. They’re not unique to this movie, but sad to see them nonetheless.
However, the use of computer-rendered versions of past characters, mainly Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia, were very out-of-place, and for Leia, completely unnecessary. She would’ve been just fine as a view from behind and never seeing her face. I’ll give them props for trying, the facial graphics were very strong attempts, but they weren’t close enough. I would’ve preferred what they did with Mon Mothma and get an actor/actress that looked similar enough.
Despite those problems, for anyone interested in a galaxy far, far away, Rogue One is an easy recommendation to go rogue from the main Star Wars storyline.