Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Since we had lots of fun over the past few days with May the 4th Be With You and Revenge of the 5th, I decided to post my review I did for Rogue One. No it’s not a throw back review, but in a way it is. The setting of the film being what it is, the story in this film predates the original trilogy. Anyways, I loved the film and here’s my original write up for it. It’s my way of closing out a very fun, Star Wars filled weekend! Hope you enjoy!

Anticipation for the first side story in the Star Wars saga has been high. Rogue One has a lot riding on it…it’s the first of multiple such side stories and its success or failure will affect the future of these off shoots. It carries the weight of having to be different enough that it doesn’t detract from the main series while maintaining the high level of quality seen in those films. It’s a difficult balance, to be sure. Does Rogue One do enough to set the bar? Yes. Yes it does. And that’s an understatement.

Rogue One follows a motley band of Rebels who are seeking out the plans for the newly created Death Star. The Rebellion has lost all hope against the sheer power of this new super weapon, but they have an inside track to how it was created. The main protagonist, Jyn Erso, is the daughter of the man who designed it. Though he tried to quit his life’s work and live a life of solitude with his family, her father was forced back into the Empire. He did his job, unwillingly, but put on a show of good faith. Unbeknownst to the Empire, he left a tiny flaw that would allow a chain reaction of explosions to destroy the Death Star. You already know how this story plays out in Episode IV, but with Rogue One you get to see how it all happened.

First of all, kudos to the Star Wars franchise and their continuing commitment to strong female leads. Jyn Erso is intelligent, capable, and shines as one of the memorable characters in the franchise. She makes decisions that are difficult and the sacrifices she endures to do the right thing are a rare thing in cinemas right now. The portrayal of her father as a reluctant participant in the Empire mirrored real world struggles many had during World War II. You also have members of the crew that seeks out the plans for the Death Star on Scariff, who are very much a nod to the Seven Samurai. They each have their own distinct personalities and bring something to the table that the others don’t, right down to K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid. He’s cemented in the great androids of the Star Wars universe with the much needed humor he brought to such a bleak and gritty movie.

The real magic in Rogue One comes from seeing the inner workings of both the Empire and the Rebellion. You get to see the Empire as they are preparing to reach their apex…arrogantly assuming that the Rebellion will be squashed out and is too small to be any real threat to them. On the flip side you get an opportunity to see that the Rebellion isn’t squeaky clean. They’re making tough decisions and if that means innocent people die for the greater good of the Rebellion, well…you see where I’m going. Without a single plan to focus on the Rebellion is a lot of different ideas of how they should be working…you even have militant rebels on the fringes of the Rebellion that would be considered extremists by today’s standards. By acquiring the plans for the Death Star you get the streamlined Rebellion you see in Episode IV. They have the focus that they needed to rally together.

Speaking of Episode IV, Rogue One flows seamlessly into it. The ending of this film is easily my favorite in the entire series. It ranks right up there with the medal giving ceremony of Episode IV and the bleak hope of Episode V. I won’t spoil what happens, though you already know….it’s something else to see it all with your own eyes. I had the air sucked out of my lungs and the nostalgia was so strong it clenched my chest.

So, in closing, Rogue One did everything it needed to do  to set the course for these side story films. It is a full blooded Star Wars film while feeling distinctly different from the main episodes. Rogue One is gritty, often bleak, and the most action packed of all the films, but one word reigns supreme….Hope. The direction of Gareth Edwards was spot on and he can hang his hat on the fact the he just made one of the best Star Wars films to date.

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