Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12a)
Dir. Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Wen Jiang, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)
“I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it.”
Prepare to jump to light speed once again as we find ourselves caught up in the big screen sci-fi events of a rebellion built on hope… Not ‘A New Hope’ which was the blueprint for the last year’s The Force Awakens but rather a desperate gambit by some plucky rebels who must risk everything if they are to help stop the Empire’s new ‘Death Star’.
Rogue One is both the prequel to Star Wars IV (A New Hope) and a kind of sequel to Star Wars III (Revenge of the Sith). It’s certainly a new kind of Star Wars prequel, namely one that doesn’t suck.
Meet gutsy young Jyn Erso (Brit actress Felicity ‘A Monster Calls’ Jones), whose dad happens to be the architect of the Empire’s planet destroying super weapon. Aided by a rag-tag fugitive crew that includes Force samurai Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ Yen), freelance assassin Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and a possibly reformed Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz ‘Nightcrawler’ Ahmed).
Also on hand for this potentially suicidal mission to steal the plans of the Death Star are Rebel Alliance Captain Cassian Andor (Diego ‘Elysium’ Luna), Clone wars veteran Saw Gerrera (Forest ‘Arrival’ Whitaker) and comedy kick-ass enforcer droid K-2S0 (Alan ‘Big Hero 6’ Tudyk). And if you don’t recognize any of those names from the sequels – you just know that all bets are off as to who will survive, which gives Rogue One a fantastic sense of unpredictability and peril.
The Dark Side sees the glorious return of the iconic Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl-Jones) and suitably nasty Director Orson Krennic (Ben ‘Slow West’ Mendelsohn) doing the Empire’s nefarious bidding.
When the skirmish / heist to steal the plans kicks off it’s all wonderful Star Wars battle-em-up fun and there is pure nostalgic joy in seeing AT-ATs attacking the rebels whilst X-Wings and a variety of other spaceships duke it out in some of the best space combat ever committed to film!
If you’re not on the edge of your seat by the finale you’re probably in a Force coma – Rogue One is a cracking space odyssey that does great fan service to those who love the original Star Wars films whilst simultaneously expanding the universe in new and cool ways.
This is how you make a truly epic prequel Mr Lucas.
What’s strikingly different about Rogue One from the ‘main’ Star Wars films is that it really brings the war dynamic to the fore. Those classic war tales such as A Bridge Too Far come to mind with stark sacrificial themes of just what is required when the few try to stand in the path of a super powerful evil. This is a darker and grittier Star Wars which feels very contemporary in our war ravaged world at the moment.
The journey of the ‘heroes’ here is one that sees them as flawed and brutal individuals who choose to stand for something whatever the cost. These folk are desperate – driven to their actions by the galactic oppression that The Empire is dishing out. In this Rogue One is a rallying cry to all for us to consider where we stand on issues and what we’re prepared to do about it.
The fact that it leads to a film called ‘A New Hope’ feels well judged. Rogue One is the dark night before the daybreak and for many of us out there it is important to realize that there will be bad times, tough times, where faith doesn’t seem like a very good comfort in the face of crushing problems. But there is hope, and clinging to that can be a way to find the resolve to ‘do what’s right’ even when it costs so much in terms of time, energy, emotional pain or physical trauma.
Rogue One is a bold addition to the Star Wars universe – it’s one worth seeing and discussing down the pub afterwards as there is plenty to unpack and relate to.
CVM Rating: **** 4 out of 5 stars
Related Films: Star Wars ep IV: A New Hope, actually all the Star Wars films!
Other CVM Star Wars reviews: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (12a)