Star Wars: Rogue One is amazing. Though the reshoots had me and many other Star Wars fans nervous, the end result does an incredible job of jump-starting the tradition of “Star Wars stories,” while creating a cinematic experience to rival The Empire Strikes Back that takes a meaningful look at the people behind the rebel alliance.
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a step into unfamiliar territory –– attempting to create a meaningful story and characters that would justify further installments –– Rogue One is the first of Disney and Lucasfilms Star Wars spinoff films and it needed to succeed, and does. The movie sheds light on the alliance that viewers of the original trilogy met just as they were about to attack the Death Star. Rogue One tells the story of Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones), and the group of rebels that fought to steal the Death Star’s schematics. Where the original trilogy simply captured the battle of good versus evil, Rogue One shows the audience that even the rebel alliance has its dark side.
The six main characters that make up Erso’s crew all see sufficient development within the movie’s two hour and thirteen-minute runtime. From a defecting imperial pilot, to a re-programmed imperial security droid, each character is given significant screen time to develop their individual arcs, their often dark pasts, and their reasons for fighting for the alliance.
Speaking of the re-programed imperial droid – K-2SO (Kay-Tuesso) – (played by Alan Tudyk) much like The Force Awakens’s BB-8 and R2D2 before him, is heartwarming and serves as the films much needed comic relief. Seriously, some of his scenes had me laughing out loud in the middle of this dark Star Wars film. It’s hard at times to believe that he is a CGI character because he looks like he belongs. His colors, emotes, and the way he carries his weight around the room all feel so real that even though he is not there, he feels as real as the practical effects that make up the likes of C3PO. The films CGI scenes are also breathtaking, most notably the dogfights between X-wings and TIE fighters. This movie contains space battles on a larger scale than anything you’ve seen in the original trilogy, all while feeling plausible in the movie, unlike the space battles of Revenge of The Sith.
Star Wars: Rogue One does something clever with it’s use of footage cut from Star Wars: A New Hope. In a scene where X-wing squadrons are “standing by,” and in space dogfights, the movie borrows scenes from Episode IV that not only make sense in context, but also root the movie both in the Star Wars universe, and in the Star Wars fan’s heart.
Star Wars characters from other films in the original series make appearances that similarly root the movie in the Star Wars universe, most notable of them is Darth Vader. Though he is not a main character, he is also not shoe-horned into the movie just for fan service. He has scenes that reveal more about the ominous dark lord of the Sith, and even a scene towards the end of the movie that proves just how much of a badass he really is. James Earl Jones returned to voice Darth Vader and his delivery is cutting and as threatening as ever.
The movie’s climax, a battle that takes place for the Death Star plans, will have you out of your seat. Rogue One embraces the gritty war-story side of Star Wars that can be seen in the beginning of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the movie that is widely renown as the best of the original trilogy. While lightsaber duels are at the center of Star Wars, the battles between stormtroopers and rebel soldiers is one that has not been told well before this movie. Here the battles that take place feel like they matter and you, as the audience, see these soldiers as more than just bantha fodder (being disposable). You also are reminded that this war has been going on between these two sides for a long time before Luke Skywalker ever showed up.
Altogether, Star Wars: Rogue One is a film that does everything it sets out to do and more. The characters it presents, the scenes it portrays, and the war in which this all is taking place feel more real than ever before. The film takes everything fans love about Star Wars and tells a meaningful story from the side of those who don’t wield lightsabers. Director Gareth Edwards, Disney, and Lucasfilms have all shown that these “Star Wars Stories” are able to take aspects of Star Wars that we know and love and turn them into something that is a thrill to watch. Star Wars: Rogue One leaves me excited for what’s to come in the new entries and adaptations coming to the Star Wars universe.