Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, and Mads Mikkelsen
Last December one of the most anticipated movie events took place, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was released into theaters. People waited in lines, online ticket sales broke websites, it shattered box office records; it was a film that provided Star Wars fans with every emotion they wanted to feel from a new film. It was an invitation back to safe/familiar territory for fans worried that the results would echo the sentiments felt after “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace”, but also a new story for newcomers to invest themselves in like so many did back in 1977.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is not a continuation of the events seen in “The Force Awakens”, it’s a new story that takes place somewhere in the saga that is the Star Wars universe. Introducing new characters into the familiar stomping grounds of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Rey is ingenious, it offers an opportunity to explore different elements not directly related to the heroes everyone knows. The characters here are lesser heroes, a group of individuals doing the groundwork with smaller victories that eventually lead to bigger victories.
To explain the details of the story may spoil the fun for some fans, the quick details are that a group of rebels lead by a woman named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) are tasked with stealing secret plans to provide an upper hand against forces threatening to conquer the galaxy. Change a few key words in this description and the story could easily describe a western or a war film; though it shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with Star Wars that both of these specific genres have played significant influence in the development of the universe with this franchise.
The films have always functioned as tales of good versus evil, war versus peace, and it isn’t much different with “Rogue One”. While these story components have been told in imaginative, provocative ways in the past, this Star Wars story feels content with providing safe and simple moments to keep fans happy. While some will say that “The Force Awakens” did the same thing, which would be true, “Rogue One” doesn’t have the luxury of having familiar characters with rich histories to accompany the new characters. This unfortunately makes the film feel somewhat mediocre rather than completely memorable. Still, there are many moments here that will make any fan of “Star Wars” feel excited, one in particular is something this fan has been waiting for since seeing the first film.
It’s a shame that more emphasis wasn’t provided to developing the characters in this film in which there are some very talented actors who give very good performances, specifically Felicity Jones and Ben Mendelsohn. There are good pieces introduced that look to provide direction towards some great conflict with some of the characters, Jyn and her father Galen have an interesting dynamic that could have been explored to provide more emotional substance, even the ambition of making a “Star Wars” influenced film actually feel like a war movie has potential to display so many aspects associated with purpose and reason why people make the decision to fight or take a side. There is also a blind martial artist and a militant extremist rebel who aren’t offered much more than a quick setup and thenquickly thrown into the mix. While each of these characters have their moments to shine, they still feel underutilized. Again, this is a film about war and the sacrifice that these rebels are making to change the state of the world they are living in. The potential for some of the characters in this Star Wars tale to become truly memorable is there but the script only hints at these directions, instead it lingers in a space that never combines the heart and heroics of the situation in an effective way.
Still, the moments when this story connects with the past and the moments just after the end credits rolled left me happy and excited about what I saw. It wasn’t until some contemplation that the holes in the script and the deficiencies of the characters became glaringly obvious. Whether this happens to you will probably depend on what your expectations are and howpassionate of a Star Wars fan you are. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a suitable film that plays just an okay supporting role to the much bigger primary Star Wars story.
3.25 out of 5.0