‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016, 12A)

Is this spin-off film from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away a good sign for the future of ‘Star Wars’?

‘Rogue One’ follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as she wanders the galaxy alone, trying to survive. But, after an encounter with a rebel captain, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), her world is turned upside down as she builds a team of rebels to go on a secret mission — find and take the plans to the evil Empire’s latest weapon, the Death Star.

This film has had a lot of hype and expectation surrounding it, which, in my experience, always means you will be disappointed with the outcome. But ‘Rogue One’ is definitely an exception to this rule — it’s everything a ‘Star Wars’ fan (or just a casual viewer) could want and is definitely up there as one of the best films released this year.

‘Rogue One’ is very different to the other seven ‘Star Wars’ films and I personally like it. The plot is a lot darker, more gritty, less fun and family-friendly. There are some pretty dark scenes in this film and, even though anyone who’s seen ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ knows the outcome of the team’s mission, the writers still managed to make the film tense and suspenseful.

Then there are the characters in the film, all individually introduced in a clear, albeit slightly slow, first act, giving the audience a good knowledge of the characters’ personality without being bogged down in useless information about their backstory etc. I was a big fan of Donnie Yen’s character, Chirrut Îmwe, a force-sensitive, staff wielding, blind man, who’s scenes were some of the best. There was also Alan Tudyk’s portrayal of the droid K-2SO, a repurposed Imperial droid and the main source of comedy in the film. But, even then, his humour was quite black and didn’t take away from the dark tone of the film, something I was a fan of.

‘Rogue One’ was also a beautifully shot film, with some very impressive and realistic CGI in some scenes. There was a large, space dogfight, reminiscent of those in previous ‘Star Wars’ films but still unique and entertaining.

WARNING! THE BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ‘ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY’. CONTINUE AT READERS’ DISCRETION

There’s so much to write about with this film, I couldn’t say how good it is without spoiling it slightly. The script is absolutely fantastic, and the climatic end to the film is definitely one of the best parts. The death of the main cast ensemble really pulls at the heartstrings and I found the film much more effective and emotional with this than if the characters survived a ‘happily ever after’ ending. I also felt it was good that the writers didn’t decide to kill them off in massive, spectacular dogfights or in face-to-face lightsaber duels, but in small ways, just showing how small a part these main characters are in the entire galaxy.

Another thing I liked was the portrayal of the Rebel Alliance, and that it didn’t seem as much of a happy-go-lucky organisation as it did in the original trilogy of ‘Star Wars’ films. We see the true side of the Alliance, with members having to kill informants to maintain secrecy and planning assassinations of leading Imperial figures.

‘Rogue One’ is full of nods and references to other ‘Star Wars’ films for any eagle-eyed viewer. One thing that the film mentions is that the designer of the Death Star, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), intentionally included the fatal exhaust port leading directly to the reactor in his creation for the rebels to use as he secretly supported them all along. I really liked this as finally one of the biggest plot-holes in ‘Star Wars’ has been closed, making the entire franchise so much better.

Another, not-so-subtle, reference is the inclusion of Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), and he, by far, steals the show as the best part of an already amazing film. Without his scenes, the film would still work perfectly, but his scenes (all two of them) just add something to the film. This is the first time we actually see why Vader is such a feared force; he slaughters a group of rebel troops at the end of the film, slashing them with his lightsaber and throwing them wth the force. It must only last fifty seconds, but this is definitely one of the best scenes in ‘Star Wars’ history. It’s also a very good scene as it links ‘Rogue One’ perfectly to ‘Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’ as the events at the beginning of that film must take place only about fifteen minutes after the last of this movie. I liked this as all other ‘Star Wars’ films have jumped around a bit in their time with large gaps in between the story, but ‘Rogue One’ seems more linked to ‘A New Hope’ now, rather than being a stand-alone film where you have to fill in the gaps between the stories with your imagination.

Overall, ‘Rogue One’ is an absolutely outstanding film, both as part of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise and in general. The plot, visuals, characters and overall tone of the film means it deserves a ten-out-of-ten.

10/10.

 

If you like what you read here, please say so in the comments below. Don’t forget, if you’d like me to review any film or TV Show in particular, just click the button at the top of the screen labelled ‘Film and TV Show Requests’. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @screencritic either. Happy watching!

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