Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O’Reilly, Ben Daniels | Directed by Gareth Edwards
The new revival of the Star Wars franchise, post Disney purchase, seemed at first to be set to milk the sci-fi series for all it’s worth. And nowhere was that more evident than when Rogue One was announced… I doubt anyone was eager to see how the Death Star plans got into the hands of Princess Leia in the original 1977 movie, except maybe hardcore Star Wars fans – who would probably have settled for a novelisation or perhaps an animated series (where the Star Wars universe has really flourished outside of the movies). However having seen Rogue One, I don’t know how we ever lived without this particular Star Wars tale!
For the younger Star Wars fans there’s plenty of spectacle to enjoy, especially in the latter half of the film as the Rebel Alliance take on the Empire both in space and on the planet Scarif. But be aware though, this is NOT a light-hearted as previous movies, this is a dark film. Much darker than The Empire Strikes Back, it certainly has more in common with the likes of The Dirty Dozen and Saving Private Ryan than it is does the kid-friendly Return of the Jedi.
For older fans this is like revisiting an old friend. The story ties so closely into A New Hope that for me this almost felt like being a kid again, watching Star Wars unfold for the first time. Truthfully, as the Rogue One story got closer and closer to the opening of A New Hope I couldn’t help but have a HUGE smile on my face. Yet that’s not the only emotion I felt watching Rogue One. This may be a big-budget sci-fi film but it’s still all about the characters and at times those characters, and what happens to them – the rousing speeches, the courageous behaviour and the sacrifices of those involved – really tugs on the heartstrings. Never has a Star Wars film been such a rollercoaster of emotions!
Being an immediate prequel to the original movie there is, obviously, the appearance of some familiar characters. Yet I didn’t expect that Disney and Lucasfilm would give us such a vast array of references to that first film – including the appearance of some minor (and major) characters throughout the movie and even the odd droid that I only remember from my collection of action figures rather than the films themselves.
Of the new characters: Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Chirrut Îmwe, Baze Malbus and even the evil Director Krennic, it’s left to the robot K-2SO to provide the films laughs (he works much better as comic relief than Jar Jar Binks ever did). Voiced by Alan Tudyk, K-2SO is a combination of R2-D2 and C3-PO, melding R2’s technical knowledge with C3-PO’s mannerisms, behaviour and even that spark of dry British wit! If I had any qualms about Rogue One’s cast it was that being an ensemble piece meant that there just wasn’t enough time spent with some of the characters.
There are plenty more highlights to enjoy within Rogue One, including Michael Giacchino’s score – which echoes John Williams’ classic score(s) yet never feels like a retread, and the glut of cameos from existing characters who shall remain unnamed… To say more would spoil what is the best, so far, of the modern Star Wars films.