ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (USA/UK/12A/133mins) Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendlestohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Peter Cushing, James Earl Jones.
THE PLOT: We’ve been here before… As a child, Jyn Erso (Jones) witnesses her mother being murdered as she attempted to save the little girl’s retired scientist father (Mikkelsen) being snatched away by the evil Orson Krennic (Mendlesohn) so he can build the Empire’s planet-crushing Death Star. Cut to sixteen years later, and the rebel alliance need Jyn to reach the father she hasn’t seen since that fateful day, in the hope of stopping the Death Star before it’s too late. The Alliance send Cassian Andor (Luna) and android K-250 (Tudyk) too, the three soon joined by mystic martial arts mind-reader Chirrut (Yen) and his burly sidekick, Blaze Malbus (Jiang) as they go planet-hopping and laser- dodging…
THE VERDICT: As with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, there is something reassuringly old school about ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’, an off-shoot ‘Star Wars’ story that charts the creation of that nasty Death Star the young Luke Skywalker tackles in 1977’s ‘A New Hope’. It’s the old adage of there only being a handful of stories in the world, and with ‘Star Wars’, it’s always pretty much the same one.
We’re introduced to a chosen one as a child, they join a motley crew (ostensibly led by a cowboy and his wisecracking, cuddly toy sidekick) in a interplanetary rust bucket to try and stop the evil Empire from completing The Planet Fecker 3000 and painting the world black, and along the way, they resolve some parenting issues.
Not that ‘Rogue One’ – as with ‘ The Force Awakens’ – isn’t jolly good fun, possessing all the bells & waistoids and abundance of gags that come with the highly-polished franchise blockbusters of today. Above all others, Disney have taken the Bruckheimer formula of pleasing all four quadrants at once by uniting them all in what are, ultimately, hero stories with lots of wink- wink laughs thrown in.
It’s worth noting too that the ‘Star Wars’ franchise is much more than just nostalgia porn – these films are designed to not only please Comic Book Guy, but to have the young kids hooting and hollering for decades and decades to come. Reel ‘em in, like football fans, and they’ll follow you, no matter who’ s playing on your team. The only downside of a well- crafted, meticulously-planned and well-oiled franchise outing is, of course, the slightly unnerving feeling that you’re just a schmuck, falling for a well-crafted, meticulously-planned and well-oiled franchise outing.
Oh, and as with all big brand outings, this bugger is about 20 minutes too long. Other than that though, you get plenty of bantha for your buck here.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

  • filmbuff2011

    ‘During the battle, rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet’. So begins the opening crawl for the original Star Wars film in 1977. Visual effects wizard John Knoll took the seed of this idea and expanded it out into a concept for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The result is a standalone film which ties in more with the George Lucas original than any of the prequels ever managed.

    Jyn (Felicity Jones) is a Rebel Alliance fighter haunted by memories of her lost scientist father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen). He was taken from her at a young age by Imperial Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and forced to work on The Empire’s new secret weapon. Jyn is a lone wolf who doesn’t take kindly to orders and protocols, instead preferring to fight the war against the tyrannical Empire her own way. However, the Rebel Alliance gets word of this secret weapon and drafts her into a secret mission to steal the plans for it, while also hopefully finding her father once again. She’s joined by heroic Captain Andor (Diego Luna), navigator Bodhi (Riz Ahmed), warriors Baze (Wen Jiang) and Chirrut (Donnie Yen), as well as re-programmed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alad Tudyk). First though, they must track down maverick rebel Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker)…

    Arguably the most anticipated film of the year, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the film that puts the ‘war’ into Star Wars. For this is a fully-fledged war film where the stakes are high and the need is desperate. It’s also something of a gamble for Disney, as this is the first Star Wars film which takes place outside of the usual world of Jedi, Sith and The Force. They’re alluded to, but they take a back seat here to allow for the lesser-known characters to come to the foreground. This is an admirable move, filling out the larger universe created by Lucas while re-inforcing the important role they had to play in the overall war effort. No wonder Lucas gave it his blessing recently – a welcome sigh of relief for Monsters and Godzilla director Gareth Edwards.

    If anything, Rogue One is a film that owes a legacy to Lucas. This isn’t so much Episode 3.5, but a parallel film to the 1977 original, in much the same way as Letters From Iwo Jima was to Flags Of Our Fathers. There are plenty of nods to the original and more than a few easter eggs for eagle-eyed Star Wars fans. Much of the tech, costumes and production design ties in closely too. But Edwards very much makes the film his own, building up his motley band of warriors and designing some superb action set-pieces to place them into. These are the pawns moving boldly across the board to take out the queen.

    The script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy from a story by Knoll and Gary Whitta has a lot of emotional resonance, rooting it in the story of Jyn and her father Galen. This gives the film more than just a larger purpose – the epic and the intimate all rolled into one. There’s a great sense of camaraderie in the characters and the cast do a great job to bring across their scrappy unity and sense of purpose. In a film full of grim determination, there’s some welcome droid humour from the mouthy K-2SO as well. The only real flaw here is in the under-used Gerrera, a character who seemed major from the trailers but doesn’t have that much to do here. This reviewer suspects that some of his scenes were left on the cutting-room floor, as evidenced by some lines of dialogue from the trailers that aren’t in the final cut.

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story connects more fully to the original film than the prequels or even The Force Awakens managed. Its intense depiction of a scrappy band of rogue fighters means that the one line from the original’s opening crawl takes on a much greater meaning now. Edwards has delivered a legacy film that should satisfy even the most battle-hardened fanboys and fangirls (and we’ve suffered our fair share of disappointments with the prequels). The Force Awakens was no fluke. Under the safe pair of hands of producer Kathleen Kennedy, Disney are taking Star Wars and this new Anthology into a bold new world with confidence. Put simply, Rogue One rocks. Over to you, Rian Johnson, for the next salvo. ****

  • emerb

    Interesting, i hadn’t planned on going to see this as the critics have generally been quite hard on it but after reading both of your reviews here, i’m starting to get tempted again 🙂

    • filmbuff2011

      Critics being hard on Rogue One? Quite the contrary – 85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve seen 4 star reviews pretty much everywhere except The Irish Times which gave it three and RTE who gave it two (the rotters).

      • emerb

        I’ve heard a fair few negative reviews but maybe i’m listening to the wrong radio stations! You’ve twisted my arm, going to check it out at Christmas 🙂

        • filmbuff2011

          Well, it is Star Wars… The franchise has been with me my whole life. Disney could make a spin-off movie about jawas scavenging in the Tattoine desert and I’d still go to it 😉