Review: Rogue One

Review: Rogue One

Many people I know were disheartened when Disney bought Lucasfilm a while ago, and I was often accused of being a Polyanna. Granted, I’m used to that, but I felt strongly that allowing the Star Wars universe to change hands was a good idea.

I was less enthusiastic about eliminating the established expanded universe storylines, but I was willing to hold off on judgment until last Christmas when Episode 7 released. And I’m glad I did. And after seeing Rogue One a few weeks ago, I couldn’t be happier that Disney now has the reigns on the Star Wars Universe.

Rogue One might be the most anticipated film of 2016, although it’s difficult to say that with massive movies like Captain America: Civil War and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But both of those franchises had already done some very successful prequels and sequels, Star Wars hadn’t really.

Not to say the Star Wars prequels weren’t successful. They were. But most fans I know tolerate them because they’re part of the overall story of Star Wars. They had high moments, of course. But it’s saying something when the best of the three was the one where the central character turns bad and slaughters children and basically murders his own wife.

So, no, Star Wars hasn’t had a good history of prequels. Until now.

I went into Rogue One with high expectations. After three prequel movies that were less than inspiring, I didn’t want to have to sort through the trash to find highlights. I wasn’t going to make excuses for this one. I’d go see it, but if it stunk, I wouldn’t look on the bright side.

And I didn’t have to.

Rogue One was excellent. Truly, truly excellent in every sense of the word. Production quality. Acting. Visual effects. But most of all, story. Rogue One is a beautiful story. But it also has utility. It fills in some of the most troubling plot holes that have always bugged me in Episode 4.

Spoiler-Free Summary

Jyn Erso is a troubled girl raised by a zealot named Saw after she loses both her parents to the Empire. After she runs away from Saw, the Rebellion takes her prisoner. The Rebellion needs her to get them an audience with Saw, and she agrees reluctantly. But when she’s reunited with Saw, he shows her a message from her father Galen. He’s the project leader on a world-killing machine, the Death Star. Her father tells her that he has built a tiny flaw into the Death Star that will allow it to be destroyed. Jyn takes it on herself and convinces her new friends in the Rebellion to attack the Empire’s server to steal the plans for the Death Star.

What I Liked Best

How can I even list the overwhelming flood of awesome things that were in this movie? The humor, the music, the alien worlds, the lore and expanded universe? Everything was wonderful, but I’ll try to narrow it down to a handful of things.

K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk

Probably the one thing I loved most was K-2SO, the reprogrammed security droid voiced by Alan Tudyk. His sassy humor and dry wit kept me laughing through the entire film. (Plus I would have loved to see Alan Tudyk hobbling around the set on stilts, since the droid is seven feet tall.)

Following him very closely was the blind Jedi-sort-of-monk-type Chirrut Imwe, portrayed by Donnie Yen. I’m a huge fan of Kung Fu movies, so when I heard Donnie Yen was in Rogue One, I got really excited. I was curious how they were going to work the martial arts elements into the storyline, and they did it beautifully.

Baze (Jiang) and Chirrut (Yen)

But then, you can’t have Chirrut Imwe without his best buddy Baze Malbus, played by Wen Jiang. He’s the heavy hitter of the team, the one who always has Chirrut’s blind backside. Their relationship is hilarious—a lot like Yao and ChienPo from Mulan.

The score is gorgeous too, composed by Michael Giacchino. This guy is rapidly becoming one of my new favorite composers. I love everything he does (the rebooted Star Trek movies, Jurassic World, and many many others). And of course, there are many glimmers of John Williams’s original themes scattered throughout.

The level of CG imagery in this movie, however, takes the film industry to a completely new level. I avoided everything promoting Rogue One because I didn’t want any sort of spoilers, so when Grand Moff Tarkin (played by Peter Cushing) strolled on to the screen, I wasn’t sure what was going on. Had they used old film? Because Peter Cushing died in 1994!

I finally decided that they had put in previously unused footage somehow, because it just looked so natural. It couldn’t possibly be computer generated.

Well, I was wrong. Grand Moff Tarkin was entirely computer generated. I found it hard to believe because he didn’t look fake. It looked like Peter Cushing came back to life, and that’s entirely creepy.

There’s another CG character inserted into the movie too, at the very end, but I won’t spoil it.

Additionally, the number of Easter eggs throughout the entire movie was just awe-inspiring.

In Conclusion

Rogue One is a beautiful movie about the meaning of family, about believing in each other, and about being willing to sacrifice for a higher cause. The movie is pumped full of action, adventure, amazing space battles, and an entire cast full of heart, passion, and love for the franchise.

The Star Wars prequels were made by the creator of Star Wars, who didn’t really connect with his main audience. Rogue One was made by Star Wars fans for Star Wars fans, and it’s pretty much spot on.

Kudos, Disney people. You get a slow clap.

So my faith in the Star Wars franchise is completely rejuvenated. That being said, if they screw up the Han Solo movie, I might take it all back. 😉

A.C. Williams

Amy Williams left a lucrative career in marketing to write novels about space cowboys, clumsy church secretaries, American samurai, and alternate dimensions. Along the way, she also discovered a passion for teaching other creative professionals how to use technology to make life easier. Through video instruction or one-on-one coaching, she teaches software, blogging, basic graphic design, and many other useful skills that help creative entrepreneurs get stuff done minus the frustration.

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