This review contain spoilers for Rogue One A Star Wars Story, please do not read any further unless you have seen the movie. You have been warned.
Rogue One A Star Wars Story hits cinemas this week, and represents the first steps into a world where Star Wars includes movies that exist outside of the Skywalker saga...
I can be a little hyperbolic about the Star Wars series, so I will try to keep myself in check for this somewhat short review. Having said that, I loved this movie so much, that as I skipped out of the theatre (I didn't really skip, but close to it!) I uttered the words this might be my new favourite Star Wars film. Now, for context, when I left my screening of Star Wars Episode II Attack Of The Clones I said, that was awesome, so you see; Hyperbole.
Even if Rogue One isn't going to challenge Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope and Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back for a place in my heart, it is really bloody good. And when it gets things right, which is about 98% of the time, it really gets them right. I mean, it sticks the landing. The battle scenes, both space and regular versions, and extremely well done, fast paced and exciting. Darth Vader too, is a version we haven't quite seen before, and all the better for it. The Rebellion show up fully formed and complex, walking a line between morally grey and morally greyer. Chirrut imbue and Baze and Bodhi Rook are all incredibly charming characters and Forrest Whittaker steals the show when he is onscreen. Its all great.
But that 2%. That's what really bugs me.
Let me just reiterate that this review contains spoilers. So bail out now if you haven't seen the movie.
Ok, still here? Lets get into a few bits.
Most of the things this movie trips over are well intentioned efforts to tie into the original Star Wars (1977). As expected we get a CGI reincarnation of Governor Tarkin in this movie which is frighteningly close to perfect. So very, very close. The same is true of Young Leia in the final moments but there are a few frames where Leia is "uncanny valley" enough to draw attention to itself. So close. That being said, its so close to perfect that I loved it! I mean I was grinning from ear to ear to see Tarkin and Leia again. I just know that people will pick up on those few wonky frame as being failures on the movies part, and that saddens me.
Now the alternative to CGI characters is to place new actors in make-up (Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba) which works, show a character that is partially obscured (Anakin in the bacta tank) or recycle footage from the original movie, and this film does all of those things. Seeing Both Gold Leader and Red Leader again is a blast, even if these frames are simply lifted from Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope but it somehow works.
There is no opening crawl, which is slightly confusing to me because this film feels very different to Star Wars Saga entries as it is, so removing the crawl to achieve that same effect seems pointless, and really I think the effect is odd. A cold open followed by an awkward logo placement before diving into the action proper is jarring. A crawl that explains the origins of the Rebellion and summarises Catalyst would have worked fine, then jump into the scene where Jyn is rescued. The rest of the movie carves out plenty of A Star Wars Story turf and differentiates itself very well, so dropping the crawl was needless.
But Rogue One is a flat out, fast paced action packed heist film that does not allow you time to evaluate these things in the moment. Jyn's story is quite moving and ultimately pays off, her effect on those around her is profound and I believe this will make her a lasting Star Wars Hero.
Darth Vader is very well used in this film. From the Bacta Tank (yes that's Anakin in there), to his initial confrontation with Krennic, to the closing OMG action set piece built around him, Vader proves that he is the beating heart of Star Wars, even when he is only onscreen very briefly. The Rebels should never have gotten that data tape through the door though, not with Vader demonstrating just how deadly he is.
In summary, Rogue One is an absolutely incredible accomplishment. A film that looks and sounds (well done Michael Giacchino) every bit a Star Wars movie. This adds to Star Wars rather than takes away from it, and slides neatly into a very high place in my ranking of the movies. I don't like to apply arbitrary numbers to movie so let me say this; Rogue One is below Empire but above Jedi, for me.
Congratulations to Kathleen Kennedy and Gareth Edwards and of course John Knoll for crafting such a wonderful Star Wars Story. I look forward to enjoying a long relationship with this film.
Thank you for reading,
Things to watch out for - there is a blink and you'll miss him cameo from Star Wars Rebels' Chopper on Yavin 4.