“Save the Rebellion. Save the Dream.”
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker
As is traditional on the BMM, this review will contain spoilers.
Calculating Imperial scumbag and master of cloak fu Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn) forcibly conscripts engineer Galen Erso (Mikkelsen) to a stalled project, killing his wife while their daughter Jyn flees into the care of Saw Gerrera (Whitaker). Years later, Jyn (Jones) is in Imperial chokey until ruthless Rebel Intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Luna) and his sassy droid K-2SO (Tudyk) rescue her. Gerrera’s extremism has broken his ties to the Rebel Alliance, but he has custody of defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Ahmed), who may have a vital message from Galen.
Joining forces with a couple of unemployed Temple Guardians – the blind and still-devout Chirrut Imwe (Yen) and his somewhat disillusioned life partner Baze Malbus (Wen) – in the holy city of Jedah, they find the pilot in spite of Gerrera’s raging paranoia and tendency to shoot into crowds, and head off in search of Galen… just as the Empire destroys the entire city in a modest test-firing of the Death Star.
Galen is killed in a Rebel assault and the leaders of the Alliance begin to give way to despair in the face of the Death Star’s existence, but Jyn leads a small group of Rebels on a stolen Imperial transport to infiltrate an Imperial archive and retrieve the design schematics necessary to exploit a weakness placed in the reactor design by Jyn’s father.
What’s wrong with it?
The film has a lot of characters, and while that is traditionally a strength of the Star Wars movies, here they are not all given quite enough room to breathe. In particular our leads, Jyn and Cassian, are so busy doing stuff that it’s hard to get a strong handle on who they are.
CGI Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin is creepy AF. CGI young Carrie Fisher less so, but still a bit.
Having not seen the Clone Wars TV series, I had no idea who Saw Gerrera was and it left me a bit confused and cold to a character who should have had emotional resonance.
Vader got sassy. It’s not even the pun, it’s the hip wiggle.
Jyn is the only woman on Rogue One.
What’s right with it?
While the leads may be a bit of a cypher, the supporting characters are excellent. K-2SO is a highlight, but Bodhi and the two Guardians are also really good. This is important, since there’s a critical moment when the TIE fighters just keep on coming where you realise that no-one is getting out of this, and that has to have an impact.
Also as a result of this, Jyn’s dramatic turn from reluctant liaison to inspiring leader comes a little out of nowhere.
Finally we get that no-Jedi Star Wars thing we were after.
The film absolutely looks like a Star Wars film, and yet plays very differently to any of the main series installments with its gritty approach and cast of morally dubious Rebels. Han Solo is a rogue and a bit dodgy (and, okay, a drug-smuggler and a terrible husband,) and yes, he shot first, but Cassian Andor is a cold-blooded murderous pragmatist and Saw Gerrera tips over from freedom fighter into actual terrorist; I don’t think it’s any accident that Gerrera is more machine than man, down to the hissy breathing mask.
Sassy or not, Rogue One‘s Vader is a stone cold badass.
Female rebel pilots!
How bad is it really?
Rogue One is a refreshing new take on the Star Wars universe, but unlike the prequels does not offer this new take by presenting us with a virtually unrecognisable world of infinitely shinier spaceships. It looks just like a Star Wars movie; the difference is in the story telling. Unfortunately, it’s an imperfect work, and this is a shame, especially as it could probably have been fixed with less than ten minutes of additional character moments; not even full scenes, but just moments like Leia putting the blanket on Luke’s shoulders in A New Hope.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Not to detract from the protagonists, but honestly, the moment when Vader goes to town on a corridor full of hapless Rebels is simultaneously awesome and chilling.
Either that or the return of Red Leader and Gold Leader via unused footage from A New Hope. That was awesome.
What’s up with…?
- Those sticks on the back of Jyn’s stolen uniform? Of course, this being Star Wars I know that there is absolutely an answer to this. Given earlier scenes I was fully expecting her to bust them out like tonfas.
- The impenetrable planetary shield? Why didn’t Endor have one of those? Why doesn’t the Death Star?
Production values – Not only is the film beautifully made, it has the look of a Star Wars movie down to a tee. Using a different composer is understandable, but the legend John Williams is missed. 5
Dialogue and performances – Excellent across the board. There are no significantly bad lines, although there are some that seem to come out of nowhere, in particular Jyn and Cassian’s respective changes of heart. 4
Plot and execution – The film’s gritty, war movie plot borrows from the likes of The Guns of Navaronne or The Dirty Dozen, and is well adapted and paced for the Star Wars universe. 5
Randomness – Sassy Vader. 3
Waste of potential – Rogue One manages to be both more of what we like and something a bit new, but it could have done with a few more character moments to take some of the harder corners off. 6