Rogue One A Star Wars Story

Rogue One is the first of the films that Disney/Lucasfilms is making in the Star Wars universe that is not part of the main saga.  The purpose of these films is to visit the unexplored corners of that universe and enhance the main story.  Therefore Rogue One is the story of how the rebels obtained the plans for the first Death Star.  I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling the ending here.

Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones is rotting in an Empire labor camp.  She is freed by the Rebel Alliance in the form of Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna.  Jyn’s father, Galen Erso, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is the reluctant designer of the mysterious new super weapon that the Empire is building (Death Star).  He has sent a message through a defecting pilot, Bohdi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed, to his daughter and to loose cannon resistance fighter, Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker.  Gerrera raised and trained Jyn when the Empire shanghaied her father into working on the weapon so the Alliance thinks that if they approach through Jyn they have a better chance of getting his cooperation.  He is currently based on the planet Jedha, sacred home to the Jedi order.  There are complications but Jyn sees the message.  Galen has built a weakness into the Death Star’s design and they need to steal the plans to exploit it.  Jyn, Cassian, Bohdi, two unemployed guards from the Jedi temple Chirrut Imwe, played by Donnie Yen and Baze Malbus, played by Wen Jiang, and a troop of other volunteers go on a raid to the Empire stronghold of Eadu where the plans are kept.

This version of the Star Wars universe is a lot darker than all the entries to date.  Lucas and his collaborators have always been cognizant of the price their freedom fighters pay to fight the empire, but they’ve never thought to try and harden the tone of the series beyond the movie serial roots of Star Wars.  Rogue One does that.  These guys are not Jedis, or clones.  They don’t have any built in advantages.  They’ve lost more comrades than they can count and as Cassian says they’ve done things they aren’t comfortable with.  The war with the empire has not only killed them, maimed them and made them mourn their fallen friends, it’s changed the survivors, transformed them into people who maybe don’t fit into the civilization they are trying to build.  In that atmosphere suicide missions have more of an appeal.

There are no stand out performances here, but there really doesn’t have to be.  This is an action movie.  I’m not sure that Felicity Jones really showed us why these people would follow her.  She has a couple of big speeches but I just didn’t buy it.  I also couldn’t really pinpoint where in the plot, she turned from disillusioned punk into rah rah, let’s go get ‘em freedom fighter.

The script could have used a couple of rewrites with attention paid to the dialog which is eye-rolling in places.

But don’t think I didn’t love this movie.  I did.  This is the most exciting film I’ve seen all year.  The last third is a rollercoaster ride, going fast downhill with half its wheels off the tracks.  It is almost perfectly cut between scenes in space and on the ground.

Am I giving it a Star Wars pass?  Probably.  But it really doesn’t need one.  It stands on its own.  You’ve got to see this movie.  You’ve got to see it in the theater and in 3D and you’ve got to see it as soon as possible.

What are you waiting for?


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