The Star Wars films follows a formula: The iconic opening sentence, the John Williams score, the opening crawl getting you up to speed on what’s happening and away you go.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes this formula, pours it down the drain and adds it’s own, unique formula to tremendous results. No Jedi, No Sith (except for one 😉) and no opening crawl. It’s a Star Wars film that strips the fairytale wonder of the series for something harsh, nuanced, on-the-frontlines and singular in focus.
The story takes place prior to A New Hope. It follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson) was captured by the Galactic Empire to finish creating the Death Star. She soon encounters a band of rebels and along the way they discover that Galen has secretly created plans to destroy the Death Star.
It’s an ensemble effort, cast-wise. Diego Luna had a great turn as rebel spy, Cassian Andor, who shares just as much screen-time as Jyn. Donnie Yen’s so cool as the blind Shaolin Monk-esque Chirrut. Forest Whitaker has a captivating performance as Saw Gerrera. Alan Tudyk steals the show as K-2SO, the imperial droid with a scathing sense of humor and the cherry on top was James Earl Jones returning to voice Darth Vader and he’s used brilliantly. There are cameos from prequels and originals, too. Tonally, it’s less about Jedi vs Sith, good vs evil, It’s a straight-up war film and Rogue One makes no bones about what it is.
The cinematography is astounding, the amount of planets this film goes to in the first 20 minutes is far beyond than any of previous films. ILM has never looked this good seeing the Death Star destroying a planet is jaw-dropping. It’s a real testament to see how far visual effects have come in the last 39 years. “You may fire when ready” has never sounded so terrifying
The action set-pieces are fantastic. It’s a real nostalgic treat seeing Stormtroopers, TIE vs X-Wing fighters, even AT-ATs!. Especially during the third act, seeing archived footage from A New Hope juxtaposed with the current battle gives the film a real sense of cohesion.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a film that fills that sweet spot that Episode VII occupies where it tells it’s own story and respects the lineage of the original trilogy. Equal parts fan service and a standalone story. I put this in the same breath as The Empire Strikes Back.
I am one with the Force, the force is with me…