Director: Gareth Edwards
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Summary (from IMDB): The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
Review: 5 out of 5 Dogwoods
For the original generation of “Star Wars” fans who weren’t sure what to make of episodes one, two, and three, “Rogue One” is the prequel they’ve always wanted.” Peter Debruge, Variety
I loved Rogue One. Loved it. For my rankings of my favorite Star Wars films, it probably goes something like this now:
- A New Hope
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Rogue One/Return of the Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- Revenge of the Sith
- Attack of the Clones
- The Phantom Menace
Set in the immediate lead-up to the original Star Wars (aka Episode IV: A New Hope), Rogue One focuses on the Rebel Alliance learning about the existence of the Death Star and the subsequent hunt to steal the plans for the deadly battle station.
Rogue One’s strength comes from its endearing group of core characters. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is not a member of the Rebel Alliance when the film begins, but a criminal – recruited by Rebel leader Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) to help find her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a brilliant scientist who has been coerced into working on the Death Star project in a crucial role. Teamed with valued Rebel operative Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Jyn’s mission will bring her into contact with other key figures like ex-Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and the extremist anti-Empire warrior, Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker). The mission also leads Jyn to cross paths with a couple of formidable fighters when she and Cassian encounter Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang).
While the entire cast are strong, it’s Tudyk’s K-2SO who is often the standout. This droid is sort of C-3PO’s dark, amped up counterpoint. Like Threepio, he has a knack for giving troubling statistics, but instead of speaking with a worried attitude, K-2SO, who is a reprogrammed Imperial Droid, has more of a resigned and often amusingly cruel and blunt approach. Some big comic relief is provided by this character, while Tudyk’s performance also gives him a sympathetic “soul” as well. Move aside BB8 and R2D2, there is a new favorite droid in town.
Given the fact that the film is introducing so many new faces, it is understandable that not all of Rogue One’s characters are given in-depth backgrounds, but there is enough provided to root for our core group of heroes. There are a couple of cases though where it feels like a bit more backstory would have helped provide motivation – most notable, perhaps, with Bodhi, whose huge decision to betray the Empire prior to the start of the film, does not feel fully fleshed out; I am hopeful that special features and deleted scenes on the DVD version of the film will give us more information about his character.
On the villain front, Ben Mendelsohn is perfectly smarmy (and right at home among the classic Empire portrayal from the original trilogy) as the ambitious but possibly overreaching Director Krennic. As for the much-buzzed about appearance by Darth Vader (once more voiced by James Earl Jones), I will simply say that his screen time is minimal but amazingly effective, adding to the character’s legend in wonderful and even chilling ways.
This is the Star Wars story you were looking for but may not have even known it. Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
A contradictory element of Rogue One is that while it is the first standalone movie, it is not truly standalone at all; it functions as a direct prequel to A New Hope and weaves into that film’s plot line in many ways. However, none of the characters in Rogue One are Jedi or potential Jedi, although Chirrut is a true believer in the Force. Because of the lack of focus on the Force or the Jedi, Rogue One brings much more of a true war movie vibe to Star Wars. There is a powerful “in the trenches” feel to much of the film as we watch the core characters and their Rebel allies battle in the streets, in the forest, and in the tropical environment of new planets. There is also no opening crawl, and the film includes cinematic elements like a time jump, flashbacks, and onscreen text identifying different locations that the core “Episode” films have never used. These small yet distinct differences help the first Star Wars Story film stand apart from what has come before, even though the story is still rooted to A New Hope.
The first “Star Wars Story” is tremendously satisfying and filled with moments that will have fans cheering.IGN Editor’s Choice