It’s The Magnificent Seven meets Suicide Squad — unlike the latter, there are actual stakes here.
Rogue One was and is a gamble. Though it’s practically a guarantee that anything Star Wars will print money nowadays, this is the first movie eschewing the conventional episodic titling in favor of a story that backtracks to spin a Seven Samurai tale — but in space. Godzilla director, Gareth Edwards, tackles an incredible feat in carving an engaging story out of a small line from the original film’s opening crawl:
Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
Even though we (mostly) know the outcome well in advance, I couldn’t help being swept away by the series’ most grounded journey yet. It’s amazing to see a group of people without the influence of the Force take centerstage, attempting to save the galaxy.
Rogue One succeeds at feeling fresh and new without straying too far from familiar. In fact, it comes out feeling more original than last year’s Episode VII. This feels like Disney’s first original Star Wars tale for those who felt deja vu with The Force Awakens. The film is also remarkably brilliant at explaining decades old plot holes that have long plagued the mythos of the saga.
The film is gritty without suffering from the grime of Man of Steel and other similar DC fare. It’s a mature look at the dark side of Star Wars without feeling gimmicky. The handheld cameras tell a story that’s far more intimate than what other Star Wars films have done. At times, it feels like a true war film — even with X-wings and Star Destroyers lingering on the horizon.
The CGI is often stellar — even though it stumbles in certain “reanimations” — It’s just minor enough to forgive, however. This movie hardly makes a misstep. If I could single one out, it’d be the casting of Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera. He chews the scenery more than John Malkovich did in NBC’s ill-fated Crossbones TV series.
Felicity Jones shines past the cringeworthy dialogue displayed in the trailer (thankful reshoots might’ve saved this film from being something rotten). Jyn Erso gets a little more plot than her other pals, but it’s reasonable considering her deeper ties to the overall fiction of the Star Wars universe. Cassian, Bodhi, and Baze all have unique, standout moments. No one overshadows another player (except Alan Tudyk’s K2 — he’s C3P0, Rocket, and Groot all in a single package).
The entire cast plays their role in the story well. Donnie Yen, in particular, is a beacon of life amongst the dire playing Chirrut, one of the last true believers in the Force. His performance and the way he inspires hope in his makeshift family perfectly foreshadows the story that follows in the Original Trilogy.
There’s lot of surprises I won’t spoil here — if you’re a Star Wars fan, this film is not skippable. I wouldn’t say it’s required viewing, but damn… I can’t deny how great it was. I feel honored as a fan; I don’t feel catered to like I did with Episode VII.
I sincerely doubted Rogue One from the trailers. I really did. I was irrationally annoyed by the aggressive use of the Imperial alarm. I’d make fun of it and the stilted, lifeless scenes featuring Jyn Erso. I even questioned why the film should exist in general.
I was deeply surprised and moved.
Rogue One delivers an unparalleled action, comedic, and dramatic package born from a single sentence in A New Hope; thankfully, it’s no longer a footnote in the mythology of the Star Wars saga.