Directed by Gareth Edwards
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelson, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen
Film Review by Kieran Freemantle
Star Wars! It is one of the biggest franchises around, spreading its tentacles from films to video games to animated series to books. However, the films have been a dynastic saga about the Skywalker clan, until now with Rogue One being the first spin-off film in the series and a bolder film than The Force Awakens - which was a repeat of A New Hope. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a young girl who saw her father (Mads Mikkelsen) being captured by the Empire and her mother killed. 15 years later she had become a criminal with no allegiances until the Rebels free her so she can do a mission for them, meet a rebel extremist and Jyn's former guardian, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whittaker) who has vital intelligence about the Empire's new weapons from Jyn's father. Rogue One is a direct prequel to A New Hope, tying into the events of the first film and the writers, director and producers who were able to pull off a marvellous trick of making something fresh and original, expand the universe for people who only experienced the onscreen version of Star Wars - whilst telling a story that most audiences know the outcome to. Director Gareth Edwards perfectly recaptures the look of the original trilogy in its set-design and costumes and puts his own directional stamp on the series: he uses location title for showing the different planets. Rogue One takes away the famous opening crawl and trademarks like the screen swipes: it was a risk and it paid off. Rogue One was what the prequel trilogy should have been - it was a darker tone like the prequels were meant to have and there is a clear emphasis on the 'Wars' part of the title. It told a story where audience members knew the outcome, but still felt unique and not a carbon copy of other Star Wars film plots. It is an original story that is cleverly tied to A New Hope thanks to the screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. The film also expands the mythology and science in the universe without being completely stupid i.e. midi-chlorians. Rogue One showed more of the culture and religion of the Jedis, with the Empire raiding their temples.
Watch the official Movie Trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story above.
Another risk of prequels is that they could be seen as nothing but fan service. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were examples of being films obsessed with fan services and references for the sake of it. Rogue One had references to the series as a whole - some are recurring lines that are said in all the films, references that are tied into the wider series, like a certain Jedi and a few little nods by fans for fans. They are not forced and some even have a dramatic purpose. Rogue One also marks the first time that a live-action Star Wars film has been composed by someone other than John Williams: Michael Giacchino. Giacchino is one of the most celebrated composers around, working on films like the Mission: Impossible series, the rebooted Star Trek films and many Pixar films and he was able to recreate Williams' sound - it could easily work within the other Star Wars films. The Star War series is a brand that supersedes any big name actors and Rogue One cast a collection of actors on the edge of hitting the big time: respected character actors and genre actors. Jones was cast after she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The Theory of Everything and along with her roles in Inferno and A Monster Calls she has had a terrific year. She was convincing in the action scenes and being the jaded young woman who isn't that interested in the rebellion, but deep down has got a good heart. One of her biggest moments was when she sees a message her father left for the resistance and sees him for the first time in 15 years. She was overwhelmed just by a hologram. The big stand out performer was Alan Tudyk as a reprogrammed droid K2-SO. He had a dry, sarcastic delivery that was sometimes pessimistic and always biting. Tudyk sounded similar to Anthony Daniels and his character came across as a more confident version of 3-CPO. Despite his pessimism, K2-SO was loyal to Cassian Andor and was quite the badass in battle. One of the biggest controversies about the film was using technology to bring Peter Cushing back from the dead - some commentators have said it was in poor taste despite his family allowing the film to use his likeness and the effect is seamless. The use of Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin was used sparingly. Whilst the film could have used a new character - but it does add to a sense of continuity in the series - as well Jimmy Smits to reprising his role as Bail Organa from the prequels. There were rumours that Rogue One was a troubled production - it was reported that there was a lot of reshoots and that director Edwards was kicked off the project. If any of these rumours are true it doesn't show in the final product. Edwards is establishing himself to be one of the best sci-fi directors around - having already made Monsters and Godzilla and is easily one of the best special effects directors around. He was able to recreate the look and feel of the original trilogy and put his own stamp on the series - making a darker war film that uses some WWII imaginary. The final battle can easily go down as one of the best in the whole franchise. Whilst Rogue One had a great opening and closing act it was in the middle where the film suffered from a saggy middle. The film was just stalling to extend its runtime, trying to add some extra emotional drama. Rogue One works both as a sci-fi fantasy action for casual moviegoers and as an extension to the Star Wars series: showing that the films can move beyond the Skywalkers and Solos. It was truly an epic space opera.