Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review
By Abby Dziura, 2021
Beware- minor spoilers!
As someone born in 2002, I was first raised on the Star Wars prequels (episodes 1-3). This was around the time the second one (Attack of the Clones) had already came out and the third (Revenge of the Sith) was soon to be released. I distinctly remember, as a child, watching Phantom Menace, the first and arguably worst of the prequels, and being amazed at the giant worlds on the screen, and the awe-inspiring technology the galaxy had.
It was then that my dad sat my family and I down to watch the original trilogy, as he explained that the prequels would never match the heart and story-telling of episodes 4-6. Of course, he was right, and my sisters and I have loved the Star Wars series ever since.
Almost a year ago, we were all incredibly excited for The Force Awakens, which would be episode 7. We were there opening night, as the tickets were my dad’s birthday gift, ready to watch the hopefully amazing new movie, and boy, were our expectations met. It wasn't the best, but it hadn't sunk to the level of terrible the prequels were at.
Now, again for my father’s birthday, we went to the theaters to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It being another prequel, I went in with low expectations, and I had cut myself off from reading any and all reviews or promotional materials in order to prevent spoilers. It was definitely not what I had expected.
Here is the short synopsis for Rogue One (courtesy of IMDb):
In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
The movie does not begin with the opening of crawling yellow text, similar to the animated movie Star Wars: The Clones Wars, though without the overeager narrator. Instead, it opens with a somewhat confusing introduction of some of our main characters. The beginning is very scattered until the “Rogue One” team (the call sign of the rebel group) gets together. After that, the story flows a bit smoother.
Obviously, there aren't many plot twists the story can throw at us, as it is a prequel, and we already know what happens. Canonically, it takes place days before of the events of A New Hope. It's the same thing with the original prequels: we knew that Anakin Skywalker would turn to the dark side, we knew that he became Darth Vader. In this movie, we know that the rebels get the plan to the Death Star, we also know that a lot- if not most- die in the process. This was established already in previous movies.
There’s a running theme of hope throughout the story, and it’s hammered into the audience. Clearly, Rogue One has failed to master the art of subtlety. I’m not kidding- this movie takes every chance to turn a happening in a scene into some purple prose about hope. As I said before, the next movie in the Star Wars canon is literally called A New Hope, so it makes sense. Either way, the movie definitely doesn’t believe in the intelligence and inference skills of the audience. In the end, it didn’t bother me too much, because it was tied up well, but it was a minor annoyance throughout the film.
Speaking of the ending, I was surprised about how much heart it had. Again, it kind of made the “hope” aspect way too obvious, but without giving away much, I was shocked that it was going to end on that note. I kept telling myself that there was no way they would just end the movie like this, with the situation the characters were in, but then it did. It was very bittersweet compared to most of the other Star Wars movies, a lot of which end in a “celebration across the galaxy”.
Throughout the film, there were the requisite cameos, including Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones), R2-D2 and C-3PO, and Senator Bail Organa (played by Jimmy Smits, who got the most screen time out of all the returning actors). As as avid West Wing fan, it was nice to see Jimmy Smits in a few scenes, and he didn’t really look all that much different from the last time we saw him in Revenge of the Sith. James Earl Jones also sounded phenomenal as Darth Vader. His voice is really one that cannot be matched, and I’m glad they got him back here. There were also many references and easter eggs to past movies, including a mini-hologram in the background of one scene of the green-alien-lady-dancer from Jabba’s palace (Return of the Jedi), and the return of “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” These were all welcomed warmly, in fact, the theater even clapped for the Darth Vader cameo. While the Darth Vader and Organa bits did add something (kind of) to the movie plot-wise, R2 and C-3PO feel like they are just there to uphold tradition, but I didn’t mind a whole lot. It was nice to see them get a line.
The new characters, which the movie mostly follows instead, are very interesting and played well. Star Wars adds to its list of phenomenal female leads with Jyn Urso played by Felicity Jones. Jones fits well into the role, and I wish we could see more of her in the future. Our male lead is Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, and the other people in the Rogue One crew include Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), Bohdi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). There was also the movie’s C-3PO stand-in (ready to deliver those witty one-liners), K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid. My two favorite characters were probably Chirrut Îmwe, a blind Jedi-wannabe who uses the force, and K-2SO. Chirrut Îmwe had some interesting and often funny banter with Baze, and I found his story arc fitting. K-2SO actually made me laugh, though, and he even had his own story arc that was also pretty interesting (it was a little predictable, but still the right choice for the character). Both of these characters retain the type of humor found in The Force Awakens, but it is kept more at a minimum.
The cinematography of this movie was decent, although I felt that the “shaky camera” effect was slightly overused (usually I’m not bothered by this, but I felt it was used sometimes in the wrong scenes). I loved the color scheme, made up of earthy tones contrasted by navy blues and bright reds. The scenery was amazing, and the background action was atmospheric but not distracting like in the original prequels.
Overall, this prequel beat my wildest expectations, but they were pretty low to begin with, so that’s not saying a lot. Was Rogue One better than episodes 1-3 of the Star Wars series? Yes, of course. Was it better than The Force Awakens or episodes 4-6? No, probably not. It fits somewhere in the middle, a mediocre film that gives some pleasure to almost all Star Wars fans, old and new. It ties up some loose ends from A New Hope and adds new Star Wars lore that makes more sense. I would definitely recommend it to any Star Wars, but I would also recommend watching all of the Star Wars films if you haven’t seem them yet, and then watching Rogue One.
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