It’s inevitable to view a gargantuan blockbuster like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with some level of cynicism, given the proliferation of franchises that really should have ended at its inception. I mean, is Michael Bay absolutely sure there’s still stuff left to blow up for his fifth, and mercifully final, Transformers movie? Is the Fate of the Furious going to be a peaceful ride into the sunset at 280mph or does this speeding cat have nine lives? Will we finally get to see the reboot of the reboot of the reboot of Spiderman:whatever?
“Given that the entire narrative for Rogue One is pretty much summed up in the opening crawl of The New Hope, the intrigue of the film isn’t so much what happens in the end but how we get there. “
The backstory to Rogue One, as you might have known, was beset with the kind of studio interference that we surmise led to the disastrous Fantastic Four 2015 reboot, when director Josh Trank’s off-screen battle with the studio 20th Century Fox provided more drama than the film itself. For a while, it looked like Rogue One was headed down the same path – comprehensive reshoots, rewriting of key scripts, complete plot overhauls – it all seemed a little messy.
As it turns out, war is a wee bit messy too, but it makes for one hell of a compelling story. Rogue One is at its heart a war tale, a devilish concoction of grounded realism set in fantastical paradigms, and a fantastic one at that.
Felicity Jones plays the protagnist Jyn Erso, the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), an engineer crucial to the development of the Death Star. After a stakes-setting opening hour, which admittedly runs into minor pacing issues, Jyn leads a ragtag bunch into enemy territory to try to obtain the Death Star blueprints left behind by her father, which ostensibly exposes a crucial flaw in the machinery of said planet-destroying orb.
Get the blueprints, save the galaxy. Got it.
“There is a certain joy in seeing the Rebel Alliance X-Wing Fighters swooping, steering and dive bombing in skirmishes with Tie Fighters; and a measure of comfort in still being able to experience that childlike exhilaration.”
On the darker side, Orson Krennic is the Republic Commander with his army of Death Troopers aimed at stopping this insurgence, played by Ben Mendelsohn in a serviceable, if somewhat inscrutable turn. Krennic doesn’t work alone, as he reports to… nah, we wouldn’t spoil it for you.
Given that the entire narrative for Rogue One is pretty much summed up in the opening crawl of The New Hope, the intrigue of the film isn’t so much what happens in the end but how we get there. And what a wild ride it turns out to be -when it sings, Rogue One soars into hyperspace. Gareth Edwards has woven a compelling tale of heroism and sacrifice; a story of heft when it could have been as vacuous as the space in which these planets hold orbit.
The action sequences are another thing. Space battles have never looked better, and those in Rogue One dwarf even the scale of the climactic battle in Force Awakens. There is a certain joy in seeing the Rebel Alliance X-Wing Fighters swooping, steering and dive bombing in skirmishes with Tie Fighters; and a measure of comfort in still being able to experience that childlike exhilaration.
What makes the show tick, however, is the beating heart at the core of its narrative. K-2SO may be the customary, wise-cracking, straight-shooting (literally) droid playing up the comedic trope , but after Jar Jar Binks we take nothing for granted. We love K-2SO and all his quips. But the real scene-stealer of Rogue One has to be Hong Kong star Donnie Yen (Ip Man) as Chirrut Imwe, a religious warrior-monk whose faith in the Force contrasts with the pragmatism of his war-weary compatriots. His friendship with Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) provides a level of emotional resonance in the film’s final act, as things come to a head – perhaps more so that Jyn’s flickering chemistry with Rebel captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna).
In the end, Rogue One turns out to be a good justification of the adage ‘too much of a good thing is still a bloody good thing.’ The film rises above the cynicism and dazzles in spots, and comes to a befitting conclusion that will earn its place as a beloved anthological piece in the Star Wars universe.