The event of a Star Wars film brings the nostalgia of fans young and old for months or years on end without ever tethering. When Disney and LucasFilm decided that they wanted to make spin-off movies for the Star Wars universe, fans could only feel a conflict of excitement and caution when they learned that a few of the films would be anthologies telling the stories between the infamous prequels as well as their beloved original trilogy. You’ll be happy to know that this is a far cry from the prequels that nearly sank the brand of Star Wars in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, but the effect left was a lightly treading sci-fi war film who was about another CGI person away from being relatively forgettable.
The film is directed by Godzilla (2014) director Gareth Edwards and stars an ensemble cast that features; Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Alan Tudyk, and Jiang Wen. The story is set between the end of Episode III and sets up the plot that started it all with Episode IV. Our heroine, Gyn Erso (Jones) is a brash, but sentimental daughter of Gaylyn Erso (Mikkelsen), a brilliant scientist forced into the evil works of the Empire. Gyn’s journey has her cross paths with Empire and Rebel forces all throughout with exciting action awaiting the colorful, well cast characters that will do everything they can to fight back for the greater good to bring hope back into the galaxy.
From a technical standpoint, Rogue One definitely feels like what a Star Wars film should with the practical effects, sound effects, and overall aesthetic that lets you know this is the universe you know and love. Sadly, sobering setbacks hit the film’s production when original Grand Moff Tarkin actor Peter Cushing passed away, but without giving anything away, just know that there was a valiant effort to respect and restore his original character through technological means. The same goes for another famous character, but that’s for you to find out. Of course, if you’re any bit a Star Wars junkie, you know where the film is going to go with nearly every beat. As a prequel to the prequels and a lead up to the original saga, it’s a solid fan respecting film. I consider it a substantial placeholder in the franchise that will act as a keystone for the franchise here on out, but it’s not the grandest piece of the franchise’s architecture.
It’s the characters that are the winners (and losers) here. Diverse, well written, and genuinely fun to watch, the squadron of Rogue One i.e. our main few Rebels, are why you will enjoy this film the most. The two standouts for me are exactly who you’d imagine, and they are Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk. As the blind monk and the snarky reprogrammed Droid to life. Their one lines zing in the best ways, bringing the most heart, and humor to the picture. Trust me, you’ll need it. It’s not like we didn’t have an idea as to where the film was going to end, but it hurts all the same. Edwards and Disney definitely made sure to give us a more “war centric” Star Wars movie to fair success. What about Darth Father you say? Oh he’s there, not a lot, but he’s there. I’d be curious to see what was taken out of the reshoots besides, you know, most things in the trailers because while the film held strong as a final popcorn movie before Oscar season comes in full swing, it’s still missing something.
By the end, you’ll appreciate the expansion of the Star Wars mythos, but I have this feeling that Rogue One won’t be the go-to Star Wars film you watch once it hits blu-ray. Darth Father is still cool, the action is dope, and the characters bring it all together, but I hope Disney and LucasFilm can finally begin to take some chances and leave the constant fan service behind.