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The City Journals

Dan's Review: "Rogue One" a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe

Dec 13, 2016 10:00AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - © 2016 – Disney/Lucasfilm

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk (voice), Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Jimmy Smits, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O'Reilly, Ben Daniels, Paul Kasey, Stephen Stanton, James Earl Jones (voice).

Written by Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll and Gary Whitta.

Directed by Gareth Edwards.



Full confession: I’m a total Star Wars nerd. Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) is by far the single most influential movie of my youth, and is perhaps the reason I became interested in movies throughout my life. As such, I have been a faithful consumer of all things Star Wars, even the justifiably maligned prequels, becoming somewhat giddy and perplexed at the same time. Most of my angst over the faults of the prequels was reserved for Star Wars creator George Lucas, who seemed determined to keep his galaxy laden with politics and unnatural dialogue (not to mention the horror that is Jar-Jar Binks). When Lucas did the world a favor and abdicated his cherished creation to Disney, I was optimistic that the franchise would reach new heights and get back to the basics, like, say…good storytelling and likeable characters. My hopes were realized with 2015’s release of Episode VII, and J.J. Abrams’ magic touch. Now comes the next step in the Star Wars Universe, a planned series of “offshoot” stories that are meant to compliment the main franchise. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first “non-episodic” movie that takes place in the fringes of the LucasFilm universe. Others (like the Han Solo film prequel) will follow, but if you’re looking for an appropriate spot for Rogue One, it might be named “Episode 3.9” given its position the “Galaxy Far, Far Away.” Rogue One takes place in the few years and months leading up to the events of Episode IV (where Luke Skywalker begins his quest to become a Jedi).

This is normally where I warn of spoilers, but if you aren’t already aware of the main Star Wars plot, that’s a “you” problem.

Galen Erso (Mad Mikkelsen) is an imperial scientist who exiles himself after learning of plans to construct the Death Star. He and his family are tracked down to a remote planet by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), an imperial military director charged with constructing the weapon of mass destruction. Erso is captured and forced to continue development on the Death Star, while his young daughter Jyn (played by Beau and Dolly Gadson as children) escapes and is rescued by Clone War veteran Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), who raises her until adulthood (played by Felicity Jones). Jyn eventually loses contact with Gerrera and strikes out on her own until the rebellion catches up with her again. This time, a rebel officer named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his reprogrammed imperial battle droid K2So (voiced by Alan Tudyk) approach her because an imperial pilot named Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) has defected from the empire and has a message from her father regarding the Death Star. Andor takes Jyn to the planet of Jedha, where the empire is stripping an old Jedi temple of its potent crystals that they will use to power the Death Star. Andor and Jyn meet Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind guardian of the ravaged temple, along with his sidekick Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang). After an ambush on imperial soldiers in Jedha City, Andor and Jyn are taken to see Gerrera, where Jyn receives the message from her father, telling her how to obtain the Death Star plans, which include a hidden method for destroying the destructive space station. Jyn, Andor, Imwe, Malbus and Rook escape Jedha just as the Death Star’s power is unleased on the planet, and head to the Yavin 4 rebel base. After failing to convince the rebel leadership to pursue her father and the plans, Jyn and her friends go “rogue” (see what they did there?) and head out to find the plans. Their journeys take them to an imperial stronghold on a tropical planet where the Death Star plans are stored. In the meantime, Krennic, pursues the heroes, with encouragement and leadership from none other than Grand Moff Tarkin (a computer-generated version of the late Peter Cushing) and a certain heavy-breathing fellow in black. A great battle ensues, and our heroes must make great sacrifices to get the Death Star plans to a certain young princess, who awaits on a spaceship.

Rogue One is an exciting story, full of action and adventure one would expect from a Star Wars film. The special effects are incredible, especially during battle scenes and the use of real and computer-generated characters from Episode IV. The new characters are likeable, too, especially the K-2SO droid, who offers up most of the humor. Donnie Yen’s portrayal of Imwe also provides the movie with something more than just explosions and laser blasts, giving the story a spiritual connection to the Force. Felicity Jones does an adequate job of carrying the lead role, although her character development might be lacking a little. The supporting cast are equally appealing, but also lacking in context.

Some may quibble about Rogue One’s deliberate inclusion into the main Star Wars timeline, interfering with their favored novelizations or imagined versions of such events. Others may bristle at the inclusion of old characters from the original 1977 film. There are certain departures from the Star Wars motif that fans will notice, like the absence of the iconic “text crawl” opening title over John Williams’ music theme. It’s the also the first Star Wars film made without the services of Williams, as Michael Giacchino weaves in subtle musical themes of his own, meshed with Williams’ original. In the end, I think director Gareth Edwards struck the right balance between the old and the new, making Rogue One a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe.

It may not be the best Star Wars film, but Rogue One is strong with the Force.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Trailer