Rogue One follows the story of a lost daughter – Jyn Erso – whose father was taken from her at a young age by the Empire and was brought up by an extremist who is so extreme even the Rebel Alliance has distanced themselves from him!
As the architect of the Death Star, Jyn’s father Galen Erso becomes the Rebel Alliance’s lynch pin for undoing the might of the Imperial war machine through some “inbuilt weaknesses”. Working as a two-hour backstory of how Luke triumphs against the Death Star in A New Hope, there is little new ground covered. This will probably play to the hardcore fans’ taste but after so many echoes of that same original film just a year ago, it feels a missed opportunity and a little unnecessary.
Almost an entire cast of new characters are introduced, the most exciting of which is the new droid, K2-S0, played by Alan Tudyk (why are Star Wars droids always so awesome?). He delivers many offhand comments that are worthy of some real laugh out loud moments. Though it also says a lot that the only main droid character has more personality than his human counterparts.
Forrest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera, also injects some intensity to the proceedings though to be fair in a very different manner to what the film’s trailers would have you believe. The characters for the most part are roughly hacked together, with little depth, or background leading you to struggle to find any believable motivations in what they do.
The two lead characters show very little interest in each other apart from disdain, yet somehow in the dying moments of the film suddenly find all their emotions. Thank God they didn’t actually kiss though; I’d have walked out!
Other saving graces however are Rogue One’s bad guys who are the real deal (aren’t they always?). The resurrection of the long dead actor Peter Cushing who has his face CGI’ed onto another actors makes for an impressive (if distasteful?) experience.
Darth returns for some menacing words, some choking and a lot of impressive saber work. The other main bad guy is new character Orson Krennic, the Chief Imperial Science Officer played by Ben Mendelsohn who is desperate for recognition but unlucky in his quest. He plays a strong and believable Arch Rival to Tarkin, seeking the Emperor’s approval.
It happened in The Force Awakens also, but here the nostalgic nods and breadcrumb links to other films, events and characters feel almost prequel-esque in its clumsiness. Take the main characters literally stopping in their tracks to suddenly cede the screen to Evazan and Ponda Baba. Equally silly is Mon Mothma stopping to chat about Obi-Wan with Bail Organa.
For me, the best references were the ones that were the equivalent of production design; a background comment about Captain Antilles, or the X-Wing squad leaders from the Battle of Yavin suddenly showing up were all nicely done.
The best references wove the tapestry of the different films together without the movie itself even acknowledging they were happening. Whenever Rogue One stopped and wanted us to applaud, it grated and misses the point.
However Rogue One does not fail to satisfy as a big budget action fest dripping with amazing visuals, even if much of the battle scenes feel like playing Battlefront II on Xbox.
Overall the film feels a little unnecessary and doesn’t quite hit the mark as the characters don’t let you care enough about them so when they finally meet their end it’s all a bit “Meh.” Admittedly this outcome is not really a surprise to any fan who knows none of these characters appear in the following movies, but still. What’s wrong with some emotional connections before they meet their fate?
Still. It’s Star Wars and I’ll be sure to be watching it again! Damn you Disney, just take my money why don’t you!?