By Darren Chan Keng Leong (Singapore)

 

***SPOILERS***

After watching the previous installment of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I had high hopes for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and I was not disappointed as it gave more background story for the events of A New Hope. The film served as a prequel for Star Wars: A New Hope. The audience will see how the prequel connects the dots of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith in the building of the ultimate super weapon which is the Death Star. It is also the first Star Wars film to not use the iconic theme music and moving film crawl to mark the beginning of the film as seen in previous films.

The film has familiar and unfamiliar names such as Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. The storyline is centered on Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as the daughter of a reluctant weapons designer, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). In the early scenes of the film, we see a younger Jyn Erso who on her parents’ commands is hiding from the Imperial guards who has come for her father. Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) abducts Galen in order for him to complete the building of the Death Star. Soon, we learn of the destructive power of the Death Star as it is able to destroy entire planets with a single blast from its reactor core. Unbeknownst to the Imperial command, Galen Erso has implanted a weakness in the core of the Death Star who he relates to his daughter, Jyn Erso through a hologram message.

Jyn Erso is accompanied by members of the Rebel Alliance which factors heavily into the story. Soon, Jyn and her allies such as Rebel Intelligence Officer, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) accompanies her to retrieve the plans for the death star project. This is to give the Rebel Alliance the chance to defeat the Imperial army who is led by Darth Vader (Yes, he makes an appearance). The only Easter eggs that I spotted later in the film was that R2D2 and CP30 makes an appearance too in the film as they watch the Rebel Alliance’s fleet go to the assistance of Jyn Erso and her team.

The film uses the battle of the Imperial army and the Rebel Alliance in setting up a rogue contingency team in getting the much needed death star plans which moves the storyline fairly quickly. However, there were some instances where I felt that the film stumbled such as the mention of the Kyber crystal. This crystal is used to power lightsabers and I would have liked it to see more of it in the story. The only time where we see the crystal is on the necklace of Jyn which her mother gave her. The film also alludes to the force but only Darth Vader wields it in the film where he snaps the necks of the Rebel Alliance soldiers and when he uses the lightsaber in battle. I was hoping for Jyn to utilize the crystal and to wield a lightsaber at the end but perhaps it was only meant to be a reference to the existence of the Jedi’s.

I enjoyed the banter between the droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) who is a reprogrammed Imperial droid and ally of Cassian Andor. He provides comic relief in the dialogue between Cassian and Jyn in tense situations which makes for a good laugh. K-2SO might just be the next popular droid after BB-8 and R2D2 as it is highly intelligent that I sometimes forget that it is a robot. The film is reminiscence of a war film which is how Director Gareth Edwards had envisioned it and it is simple enough for audiences to comprehend the dynamics between the characters which is good versus evil. The inclusion of Forest Whitaker and Donnie Yen was to incorporate familiarity but I wished that they had better dialogue as it felt rushed at some points. Donnie Yen who plays a blind rebel warrior keeps chanting a mantra during the film, “The Force is with me, I am with the Force,” and I am guessing that he could be a Jedi as he has the mastery and skill during fight scenes.

The score and cinematography were very well done as it gave each featured planet its own unique setting. They brought back a character, Grand Moff Tarkin using CGI as the original actor, Peter Cushing had passed on a few years back. The CGI looked rough and did not blend in well with the scenes and I thought it felt forced. Even the CGI for Princess Leia looked better and I felt that the production team could do a better job for the character of Tarkin.

The film does manage to tie us over till the next installment of the Star Wars franchise and though it is done in a more traditional way, I hope that improvements could be made for the next subsequent films in terms of character and story development. The franchise is lacking in new stories to be told and more memorable scenes so that it will make good material for repeated viewing again. Also, none of the characters does survive in the film and only the death star plans manages to make it into the hands of Princess Leia. All I can say is that they went out fighting as heroes without any extraction plans. It is a good holiday film to watch with the family or any die-hard Star Wars fan, but it is easily forgettable as it struggles to be a standalone film.

Still, the efforts of the film-makers in providing fans with another Star Wars film for the holiday is commendable and for a two hour movie, the visuals and set design does help one to overlooked the little downsides such as the character development aspect. The film does serve as a nice ending to 2016 in the category of much anticipated movies for the year. Go Rogue and May the Force with you!

Rating: 4/5

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