Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has Gareth Edwards’s name written all over it. If you watched his rendition of Godzilla in 2014, you will know what I mean. He establishes his own tone by giving us a one hour introduction of the characters (albeit boring), and then he proceeds to get things rolling with the execution of the said plans to eliminate the actual threat to our heroes. With that being said, he does a few things which are unconventional as far as formulaic Star Wars films go. But thankfully, his predictable writing gets better as time passes because as we sink deeper into the battle with the Rebels, it ultimately pays off tremendously for us.
Set in a world post Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and pre Episode IV: A New Hope, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is a brilliant scientist who is captured by Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and forced to complete unfinished work on the Death Star. Rogue One revolves around the Rebel Alliance, a group which has knowledge of the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction, a weapon which can entire destroy planets and the dream of rebellion, the Death Star. So now, Galen’s daughter, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who has been given essential information in defeating the Death Star must now lead a band of rebels together on a mission to steal the plans of the Death Star.
I will address the first and only major issue I have with Rogue One and get it out of the way – the pacing in the first hour of this film is horrendous. I have seen it in Edward’s Godzilla and I see it again in Rogue One, the first act is incredibly unexciting. Gareth Edwards has got some real issues with character development because he takes an entire hour jumping from planet to planet, introducing us to characters and how they coincidentally meet. Never mind that, it is uneventful and full of pointless dialogue which does not drive the story forward. I personally slept through half of it because of how off the mark the pacing is. Whether to blame it on the writing or my exhaustion from errand running, I will remain completely objective. There are also hints of lazy writing if you look really hard but for the sake of spoilers I won’t make an example out of anything.
One of the most notable and impressive aspects of Gareth Edwards is his work as a visionary directory. His craft in Godzilla helped us to visualize the massive Kaiju from a human being’s perspective; a truly insurmountable and intimidating monster. In Rogue One we get to see the sheer size of the AT-ATs and other planetary-sized star ships from our hero’s point of view and in those moments, we really did feel for the safety of our brave rebels being threatened. The visual effects, CGI and use of imagery in Rogue One is outstanding and fans will be treated to one of the best, if not the best intergalactic space fight scenes in the franchise. Edwards captures Rogue One in a less mystical way, and more of a very gritty, Saving Private Ryan-esque style. The exclusion of lightsabers and the use of the force (until Vader appears), help to keep the film grounded in terms of reality since there is a loud war film vibe to it. And the recreation of vast set pieces like the tropical conditions of Scarif which is the setting of a memorable battle scene, really helped in showing us that the rebels were willing to get down and dirty to make their cause a success.
Darth Vader is indeed in this movie if you don’t already know. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is just a precaution from yours truly to keep your expectations of his appearance in check because his screen time is as minimal as Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad. He literally appears in only two scenes. His last scene however will be immensely satisfying for fans of the iconic villain and totally bad-ass. I am glad they didn’t bank on more Vader to carry this film through because it would overpower the introduction of the other new and likable characters as well as the villain in Director Krennic. At least Krennic had a long and rough history with Jyn so they both had something to fight for. Vader is no one to Jyn. After all, it isn’t called ‘Darth Vader: A Star Wars Story’.
Another area which Rogue One did well is its introduction of the new slate of characters to the Star Wars lore. They are nothing short of show stopping. Donnie Yen plays Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior who believes in the force (he shows hints of force powers in the movie). Alongside him is his good friend, Baze Malbus played by Jiang Wen, a Rebel warrior and mercenary and the both of them have their own awesome scenes where they take out numerous Stormtroopers using Wing Chun and overpowered blasters. But best of all is K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a former imperial droid who has been reprogrammed to work for the Rebels. That process somehow made him have a degree in dark-humour with unasked for statistics during times of trouble such as ‘There is a 33% chance of failure’ or ‘There are 84 Stormtroopers ahead of us’.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is brimming with excellent fan service which will leave the Star Wars buffs cheering on with delight when easter eggs and cameos come on. It also doubles up as a proper war movie; one that is worthy of its place in the Star Wars franchise in spite of the lack of whipping of lightsabers and waving of hands. Gareth Edwards is successful with Rogue One and he proves to us that there is a place for spin-offs in the Star Wars universe, because spin-offs are built on hope.
Should you spend money on it? Yes
Directed by: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla)
Screenplay by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Based on: Characters by George Lucas
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker
Running time: 133 minutes
Genre: Science fiction/Action