There’s a hell of a lot riding on Rogue One just like there was for The Force Awakens. The good news? Rogue One soars and sets a high (but not perfect) standard for any following Star Wars Stories.
The story is fairly straightforward especially if you’re even vaguely familiar with A New Hope. Galen Erso has been forced to work on the Death Star by his old friend Orson Krennic. Whispers of this weapon convince the Rebel Alliance to pull his unwilling daughter Jyn Erso into their fight. She finds herself on a mission to rescue the father she hasn’t seen in over a decade and suddenly a part of something far bigger. Oh. And they’re going to have to steal the Death Star plans.
When Rogue One is good, it is ridiculously good. The ending space battle that we’ve seen teased is magnificent. The Battle of Endor has long been the gold standard but it’s absolutely been supplanted by the Battle of Scarif. Gareth Edwards knows how to frame a shot and how to leave you gasping with awe at just the right moments. The battle alone is worth repeat viewings of the film so you can try and take in everything going on.
The core cast is another strength of the film and they are able to draw you in and care about all of them. By far and away, the standout is K-2SO. He’s funny, has a distinct personality, and is just a delight throughout. Undoubtedly, he’s going to take his place in the pantheon of favorite droids and it will be completely deserved. Bodhi Rook is also precious and had some great moments. There was no one amongst Jyn and Cassian’s team that I didn’t like and if anything, I wanted to know more about them. The two plus hours just wasn’t enough time with them.
There are also a ton of sly nods towards other parts of the Star Wars universe scattered throughout the film, some more subtle than others. While they will undoubtedly be all over the internet within days, I strongly urge fans to resist looking and experience them all for themselves. Each one made me smile like an idiot. (Okay fine: smile and sometimes flail.) Darth Vader is used perfectly. He gets more than a brief cameo but is in it sparingly enough to not overwhelm the film.
It’s not a perfect movie though. Personally, I found the use of Saw Gerrera to be underwhelming although viewers unfamiliar with the character may not be bothered. The film also suffers from being blindingly male. While the racial diversity of the cast is fantastic and goes beyond just our main crew, they definitely needed to hire more women. It does better than the Original Trilogy in terms of women with speaking parts etc but there is still a ton of room for improvement. (Let’s be honest: those films aren’t a high bar to clear.) I would have also liked to see the diverse Empire we’re told about in the books be reflected on screen. Bodhi Rook may be the only Imperial we see who isn’t a white man and he’s a defector at that.
Some assorted thoughts:
- Del Rey was absolutely correct when they said the reading Catalyst would really enhance the film for you
- I wouldn’t recommend the film for young children
- Watching Donnie Yen kick butt is INCREDIBLE
- There needed to be at least 500% more Bail Organa
- This film featured a lot of sweet Imperial outerwear
- It’s weird not having the opening crawl but it works
Flaws aside, Rogue One could not have had a more perfect ending. This is a movie that knows how to appeal to both hardcore and more casual fans alike. It has you cheering one moment and doubling in two from the emotional gut punch the next. It’s a movie that’s worth seeing multiple times purely for the Battle of Scarif and it’s a movie that I need to see at least a few more times before I can fully process it. In the mean time though? Rogue One gets a strong recommendation and you should definitely take off into a galaxy far far away.