Movie Review | Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Why this order? In the build-up to The Last Jedi, I'll be working my through the films in what I believe is the best order to experience them: namely, Machete Order. There are two differences: 1) Rogue One has to fit in there, and 2) I'll also include The Phantom Menace for completeness.
I've chosen Rogue One to go first simply because there really is no better place to put it when watching these movies in this order. The entire story sets up the opening crawl of A New Hope and gives us introductions to the antagonists involved, perfectly setting them up as dangerous adversaries before the main sage even begins. Also, Rogue One has quite a different tone to the other films in the series, being a little more bleak and serious, even if it does have plenty of humour.
It's very much a war film living up the franchise title, with extended action sequences that are unmatched for scale in the seven 'Saga' films. The only real downside is that with so many characters to focus on for just one film, you may well end up picking one or two as favourites and forgetting the others; while I enjoyed the time spent with them, I can't imagine any of the Rogue One crew being remembered especially fondly even just a few years from now.
Movie Summary: The daughter of an Imperial scientist joins the Rebel Alliance in a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star. (IMDb)
That title is just ridiculous and I’m only ever going to call this thing Rogue One, because how the hell was anyone ever going to mistake this for another franchise? When you’ve X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Star Destroyers, the Death Star, and Darth bloody Vader, it’s a bit of a giveaway.
Onto the actual film itself: it’s great. Seriously. I could end the review here and say to go see it, but that would be kind of lazy. It’s not perfect by any means, but – for me – this is the best Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi (which is still underrated because people only remember the Ewoks).
It’s a little slow to get going, actually reminding me very much of how the first Avengers film turned out: a slow first forty minutes or so to set the stage and gather the main players, then bam! The film jumps into hyper-drive and you’re left holding on, just trying to keep up with the spectacle on-screen.
And that climactic battle is quite possibly the most impressive spectacle the series has ever seen, just nosing past Return of the Jedi’s final battle thanks to visual effects that weren’t available for those older films. The best part is that it isn’t just noise put on the screen to look busy and chaotic – it’s simplicity itself to follow the battle every step of the way without getting lost.
Then there’s that Vader scene which shows just why so many people, Rebel and Imperial alike, are so absolutely shit-scared of him in the original trilogy. He has two scenes and his total screen time is maybe four minutes in total, but every last second of it is worth the ticket price alone.
Is there any real point discussing the story? It’s about the Rebels getting the plans to the first Death Star – so no Bothans – and the original Star Wars’ existence lets us know that the heroes will succeed, but this film is about the journey instead of the destination.
I came out of the film wanting to spend more time getting to know all of the main characters aside from Jyn Erso better than we had the chance to in the film. It’s probably the film’s weakest point in comparison to The Force Awakens, although that had fewer characters to introduce and didn’t have to worry about completing character arcs in a single film.
All of the Rogue One team get their moments, both action and character-based, and none of them really put a foot wrong, but I’d love to see a much longer version of this film so we could get more of them.
I’ve got to hold my hands up and admit that I love seeing women in leading action roles, so you can guess already that I loved Felicity Jones as Jyn. It obviously helped that she had the most developed character with the greatest depth and background, but I was relieved that her relationship with Diego Luna’s character didn’t end up being romantic and more like one of equals.
Rogue One really feels like it belongs with the original trilogy, and not just because of the make-up, hair-styling, costuming, and everything else to make it match up as close as possible either. It feels ‘grown-up’ like Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and most of Return of the Jedi; in contrast, The Force Awakens – which I really enjoyed – feels like a film made for a much younger audience.
It’s not just the combat either, although the film really does earn its 12A rating in the UK, with only the lack of blood on-screen really making this any different to any number of actual war films. There is humour, but there’s a lot less and mostly coming from the excellent droid K2SO. The main reason this feels more ‘adult’ than The Force Awakens is that Rogue One takes the ‘Wars’ part of Star Wars seriously for the first time in the franchise’s history. There’s a little less fantasy, a little more reality, and the film is all the better for it.