I didn’t have many expectations going into Rogue One considering the flaming pile of diarrhoea that was the prequels, but much like a fire ant in a wind tunnel, I was quite blown away. Gareth Edwards does a remarkable job of creating the Star Wars universe of the original trilogy with cutting edge modern technology while still retaining its charm.
Rogue One is the tale of a motley group of rebels on a mission to steal the schematics of the militarised Empire’s superweapon. The moon sized battle station capable of destroying planets, The Death Star. (Death Moon probably sounded stupid.) It serves as a direct prequel to “A New Hope”. True to its name, Rogue One is set in grim and gritty world of despair.
The film opens without a text scrawl, a step forward in the “show, don’t tell” kind of storytelling. Morality is grey, The Rebel Alliance resorts to evil for the greater good and most of the Empire is made of normal people doing their job. The film provides a fresh take on the Red Glowstick-Bad, Blue/Green Glowstick-Good formula of the series. In fact, for the first time since its inception, the movie is not about force wielding walnuts. Except for a blind monk with entry level force powers, the film is based on the grit, resolve, fear, anger, courage and trust of plain, simple, ordinarily extraordinary humans.
Being a standalone film without any previous lore to stick to and with much lesser hype than “The Force Awakens” gives it more wiggle room, as evident from the reinvention of the formula. At heart, it is a war movie, tackling mature themes with subtlety and finesse. The disadvantages of this are evident too, with new characters and locales being introduced with breakneck speed, making it a challenge to remember a single name in the end. Despite its fast pacing it starts out a little slow, but the buildup pays off in the visceral finale.
James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader brings back the awe of the beloved character from the original trilogy. Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones, and Diego Luna as Captain Cassian Andor play their roles well, but a bit more backstory would’ve helped characterisation. Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen as the blind Force sensitive monk and his companion are a treat to watch. Ben Mendelsohn as Director Orson Krennic is incredible, switching from insidious malice to arrogance and pettiness as the scene demands. His obsession with white clothes and a long white cloak that drags as he walks is puzzling though. Why? Does he hate his laundry lady? Did the laundry lady bleach his Batman outfit and did he decide to roll with it? Was the laundry lady Batman? Was Krennic laundry Batman? Rogue one leaves many unanswered questions in its wake.
Grand Moff Tarkin makes a reappearance from the originals, his CGI self uncannily resembling Peter Cushing, the original actor for the part who passed away in 1984. While it’s not perfect, it’s incredibly well done, and captures Tarkin in all of his glory. The new droid addition to the Star Wars family is K-2SO, a reprogrammed imperial droid and the companion of Cassian. Think a taller, stronger, hilarious, snarky, sarcastic, wisecracking version of C-3PO, or the best goddamned droid in existence and if you think otherwise you are wrong.
Rogue One manages to be a charming movie in its own as opposed to the soulless cash grabs of Hollywood, making its own path rather than licking the dropped bread crumbs of its predecessors for nutrition. Whether you are a series veteran or a newcomer, Rogue One will find something for you with its stellar cast, breathtaking visuals, headstrong direction, brilliant soundtrack and a well crafted script with lots of heart. A perfect blend of modern action and cinematography with classic Star Wars, Rogue One provides weight and substance to future events.