By Luke Hutton (England)

 

The first thing I need to say about this movie is: it’s a Star Wars prequel. A prequel to the original Star Wars (Episode IV), which in Star Wars term has been a death sentence to the franchise since the overall disasters which were Episodes 1,2 & 3, and Disney seem to have recognised this by avoiding the word “prequel” in regards to this movie in all of its marketing. However one thing I can say about this movie is… it’s the best Star Wars prequel there has been.

Now granted that isn’t the hardest thing to do but in my opinion I believe the overall package we are given in this movie puts this up there with other instalments in the franchise (rivalling The Force Awakens and Return of the Jedi for the title of 3rd best in the franchise). However with what we get with this movie… there are still flaws in this Gareth Edwards directed romp

This movie focuses on the story of how the rebellions were able to discover the exhaust shaft design flaw of the original Empire planet destroying weapon, the Death Star.

One big concern I had going into this movie was the characters. As essentially the whole main cast is new to the universe, I needed to be sold on them. I needed to believe that their struggles were real and that they were not flat in expression and details. But after meeting the whole of “Rogue One”, I loved each and every one of them.

Props will go out to Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso leading this group as she is the main focus of this movie and Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, successfully filling the role of Han Solo for this movie as best as he could (even down to the jacket) and Alan Tudyk provides some tasteful dialogue in the form of the teams robot companion, K-2SO. Ruiz Ahmed and Wen Jiang provide solid performances as Bohdi and Baze respectively, however I feel they were the least fleshed out of the characters on show. But the stand out without a doubt is Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe, a blind force sensitive priest who’s both light hearted and serious sides are both a joy to watch. This movie also did a great job to highlight just how doom and gloom this world is, the rebels are not good people. Unlike other Star Wars movies where you have a solid good guy taking on the evil empire. You have the “good guys” still fighting the empire… but they are not good guys. They will gladly shoot someone who just gave them information or torture a fellow rebel to get information, if the situation calls for it or they are running out of time to get something done. Something which has never been explored and is a new and intriguing concept to see on the light side of the force.

Apart from the Rogues getting the characterisations they deserve, the other new characters on both the Rebel and Empire sides suffer as they do not receive the screen time nor the development they deserve and you begin not to care for them and what happens to them. Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic was a key example of this, for what he did in the movie he was good. But he didn’t really do as much as I wanted him to do. I didn’t feel he was a menacing character whatsoever, he seemed more like a spoilt director who couldn’t get a break from his boss, and wouldn’t ever be considered to be in the same league as a Vader or a Tarkin when it comes to villains (I’ll get back to them). Mads Mikkelsen character works well and his interactions with his daughter Jyn are good for what they are but their first meeting in over a decade falls flat and does not live up to the buildup in some ways. The character who suffers the most is Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera who’s screen-time is so small and his impact on the overall story is so minimal, he could’ve easily been removed entirely from the movie.

Recurring character wise, Vader does what Vader fans have wanted him to do for nearly 40 years… but it’s in such a small dose that it frustrates viewers and feels more like a tease of what he can rather than just showing what he can do right here, right now.

The effects on show are possibly the best to be seen in Star Wars as of today. The space battles are glorious and feel as realistic as the concept can be. Even when some ships come in for close up shots, you can see the dirt and scratches on the outside from the constant space travel and fights they would’ve been involved in. But the best effects without a doubt come down to the second half of the movie straight to the finale. After the slowly paced first half of the movie, the continuous action on show for the entirety of the battle of Scariff (both on and off planet) is remarkable. With explosions and destruction everywhere and the impending doom that one shot can easily end the life of a beloved character at anytime. One thing this movie does spectacularly is scale. This is expected from Edwards who’s directing credits also include 2014s Godzilla and 2010s Monsters, you get a great idea of just how big the Death Star is and how daunting the prospect is of facing an approaching AT-AT.

However. The special effects are let down by one character… and that is Governor Tarkin. The movie tries to ensure that this lines up with the New Hope by trying to include characters from that here, the problem is that movie was 39 years ago and the actors are either older… or dead. The latter is the case of Peter Cushing, who has been brought back to life by CGI as best as they could do… but it’s not good. The character looks resemble more like Jim Carrey from A Christmas Carol rather than Tarkin, his screen time is also way too long and is both jarring and takes you out of the movie whenever he’s on screen.

All in all this movie is fantastic. It does the job it sets out to do in expanding the Star Wars lore – introducing new planets and also answering one of the biggest questions in regards to the Death Star which has been plaguing the series since day one. An ending which cements where this movie takes place in the timeline (hours, if not minutes before New Hope), but pacing issues for the first half and some unfleshed characters along with an underused Vader (whose voice seemed off to me) and the excuse of Tarkin leave a small sour taste after viewing. But these are small nitpicking issues and don’t take away from an amazing experience in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Rating: 5/5

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