Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

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(SPOILER WARNING:  For those who have not seen Rogue One, I strongly advise that you stop reading this review.  This review will contain numerous spoilers from the movie.  The rating will be spoiler-free, so skip to the end if you want no spoilers.  You have been warned.)

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

Have you ever been told a really good story?  And then, in the middle of the story, the one telling you it suddenly stops.  It may have been a bedtime story from when you were little, or one that a really good friend has told you.  They start telling you the story, and then stop.

After that, for what seems like ages, they finally continue with their story.  As a kid, waiting a whole day to hear the next part may seem like ages.  Or your friend may have been out of town for a while.  When they finally get back, they continue with the story.

You get the point.  This story I’m referring to is a story of good versus evil.  The light side versus the dark side of the Force.  Jedi masters versus Sith lords.  It started in the middle.  It continued with the beginning.  And now, after 30 years, the story finally continues.  This is the wonderful and amazing story of Star Wars.

And if it’s been a while since you have seen a Star Wars movie, here’s a brief refresher.  Okay.  It’s really not that brief.  For the actual review, skip down past the recap.

On the desert planet of Tatooine, a pregnant Shmi Skywalker gives birth to a boy named Anakin.  Having no father, Anakin was believed to be conceived by the will of the Force.  Years later, excessive taxation for the trade routes around the outlying star systems has the Galactic Republic in an uproar.  With this in mind, two Jedi knights were dispatched to settle the conflict. Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Darth Sidious, the Sith lord wanted them killed when they reached Naboo, but they escaped from his clutches.

After taking off, their attackers pursued them, and damaged their ship’s hyperdrive.  They landed on Tatooine, needing a replacement part before they could leave.  And…let’s cut to the chase.  They meet Anakin, they enter a pod race, Anakin wins and they get the money for their ship part and to buy Anakin’s freedom from being a Toydarian junkyard slave.  Anakin wants to go with the two Jedi knights and the Queen of Naboo’s assistant.  Later, we find that the assistant was the queen in hiding.  With Darth Sidious’s apprentice, Darth Maul tasked to capture the queen and kill the Jedi, he was hot on their tail.  They escape with the queen.

In the end, Anakin destroys the droid control ship and Obi-Wan defeats Darth Maul.  Qui-Gon Jinn tells Obi-Wan to train Anakin to become a Jedi.

Episode II has more of this, with it mainly being a love story between Anakin and Padme Amidala.  Shmi is killed and it makes Anakin angry, slaughtering a whole Tusken community.  Men, women and children.  Anakin and Padme rescue their friends on Geonosis.  The droid army fights the Jedis, and the clone army cleans out the droids.  Count Dooku fights Yoda, but was unsuccessful in besting him. The Jedis hear the shocking news about Darth Sidious controlling the Senate.  Anakin and Padme have a secret wedding on Naboo, with C-3PO and R2-D2 as the only ones present.

Episode III takes a turn for the worse.  The Galactic Republic becomes the Galactic Empire.  With Anakin being enticed by Senator Palpatine, he begins the gradual turning away from his Jedi ways to the dark side, and becoming a Sith.  He kills all the Padawan learners in the Jedi temple and is given the title “Darth Vader”.  On Mustafar, Obi-Wan does battle with Darth Vader, his very pupil twisted by the dark side.  Vader is badly injured by the fire, burning up along the shore.  Padme dies in childbirth, giving birth to twins.  She names them both before she dies.  Luke was the first one and Leia was the second one.  Both of the children were separated.  Leia was taken to Alderaan and Luke was taken to Tatooine. Darth Vader was rescued by Darth Sidious and was placed in black armor, with a face mask and helmet to match.  The saga begins.

IV, V and VI are straightforward.  In IV, The rebel alliance find hope through Obi-Wan Kenobi, who trains Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi.  After fighting Darth Vader, Obi-Wan dies.  Luke uses a rebel X-Wing fighter to blast a proton torpedo into a small exhaust port leading to the Death Star’s reactor. In V, Luke trains under Master Yoda in the Dagobah system to become a Jedi.  He leaves without finishing his training, since he sensed that his friends were in danger.  Luke flies to Cloud City and Han Solo gets frozen in Carbonite.  Luke does battle with Darth Vader and discovers a chilling secret: Vader is his father.  Luke loses a hand and manages to escape, and is rescued by his friends on the Millennium Falcon, thanks to Leia being able to sense Luke being in danger.  In VI, Luke leads a rescue effort on Tatooine to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.  Han is unfrozen and they escape. Leia is also rescued in the process.  Luke returns to Dagobah with a dying Yoda telling him that no further training is needed and that “there is another Skywalker”.  With another Death Star under construction, they travel to the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor to deactivate it.  The rebel group is captured by Ewoks and C-3PO shows off his divine powers, thanks to Luke’s use of the Force.  With C-3PO sharing the story, they agree to fight the empire.  Luke is apprehended by the Empire and enticed by Darth Sidious to join the dark side.  The rebels begin their fight against the stormtroopers and disabling the shield generator.  Luke resists the Emperor and Vader saves his son.  Just before the finishing bolts are delivered, Vader lifts up the Emperor and throws him into the Death Star’s power core/reactor shaft.  Luke has a nice father-son chat with Anakin before he dies. The Millennium Falcon destroys the Death Star’s main reactor and Luke escapes.  The Empire has fallen.  The entire Galaxy celebrates the victory.

So there’s the refresher.  And after 30 years, the story continues…or does it?  This is already been visited with The Force Awakens.  This time, we’re taking a trip back in time.  After the events of Revenge of the Sith but before A New Hope.  Why are we traveling back in time?  An important plot element has to be explained.  The Rebels had access to the plans of the Death Star.  But where did they get those plans?  How did they acquire them?  This is the premise of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, another prequel released by Lucasfilm Ltd. and Walt Disney Studios.

To start things off, Star Wars is an epic space opera centered around a film series created by George Lucas.  From its humble beginnings and phenomenal success, it has become an iconic franchise.  In just the merchandising sector alone, the Star Wars brand is worth more than $30 billion,  with $4.38 billion coming from the six films alone.  And an additional $2.07 billion made from The Force Awakens just a year ago.  With a combined film gross of nearly $6.5 billion, It is a cultural phenomenon that has started with the first film and has continued to this day.

With J.J Abrams treatment of The Force Awakens, we know that he was spot on in nailing all the key elements that everyone really loves about the Star Wars franchise.  Disney can make a Star Wars movie, and they more than proved it last year.  With Rogue One, however, we’re going in a totally different direction.  We have Gareth Edwards who is directing this project.  Known for directing the 2014 reboot of Godzilla, he has one good movie under his belt.  But for Star Wars, you want to be very careful.  With a rookie like him, how does Edwards manage with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?  Do we see a wonderful addition to the plot of the movie, or is this side story just a big waste of time and investment for Disney? Let’s find out.

The movie begins with imperial ships touching down on the planet of Lah’mu.  The ships are there to apprehend Galen Erso (Mad Mikkelsen), a research scientist.  He has stopped working on the unfinished Death Star project and imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) wants him to continue on it.

Galen refuses and is captured by Krennic and the imperials.  Galen’s wife Lyra Erso (Valene Kane) is killed and their daughter Jyn (Beau Gadsdon) escapes.

Moments later, she is taken to safety by rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

Fifteen years later, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) defects from the Empire.  During this time, Jyn (Felicity Jones) is freed from Imperial captivity by the Rebels, who planned to use her to track down Galen Erso, her father. In spite of this, General Draven (Alitair Petrie) wants Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to kill Galen instead of capturing him.

Jyn, Andor, and his droid K-2SO travel to Jedha, where the Empire is mining Kyber crystals to power the Death Star.  While they’re doing this, Gerrera and his team are engaged in combat against them.  With the help of blind warrior Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and mercenary Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), Jyn contacts Gerrera, who is holding Rook captive.  Gerrera shows Jyn the hologram, in which Galen explains that he covertly compromised the Death Star’s reactor design, directing them to find the plans at an Imperial high-security data bank on the planet Scarif.

With this knowledge, the Death Star plans are ripe for the taking.  Will Jyn be able to reach Scarif and recover the plans?  Or will the Empire shut down their plan before it even happens?  And what is Rogue One and how is this team formed?  Will there be a “New Hope” for the galaxy? Watch the movie and find out.

In looking at the length of the movie, I thought that it was pretty balanced. The typical Star Wars movie is about this length, with the pacing being just right.  The plot progresses at a smooth pace, helping us to take in all the new scenery and characters.  And with the ending of the movie, you know how well it connects to Episode IV: A New Hope.  Episode VIII is slated for release in 2017.  The classic Star Wars score was great to hear again.  After all, it is the same one that scored all the other Star Wars movies.

In looking at the characters, I loved the new characters and the old cameos.  The old characters were just cameos and we got enough screen time to get to know the new characters.  I loved the cameos for C-3PO and Princess Leia.  Darth Vader’s performance was killer and his cameo was executed well.

The new characters were portrayed quite well.  We have Jyn, which I really loved.  With her strong-willed attitude and personality, I liked her portrayal and where she fit in the Rogue One mission.  We also have Chirrut Imwe, Bodhi Rook, Baze Malbus, Cassian Andor, and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), to name a few.  With the new characters, I feel like they all fulfilled their part of the Rogue One story well..

And what can I say about the nitpicks?  For one thing, I have a problem with the title.  For any Star Wars movie, you should have Star Wars in the main title.  To call it Rogue One: A Star Wars Story kind of makes Star Wars secondary.  Calling it Star Wars: Rogue One would’ve been a little better.  But with it being a side story, I would imagine that they didn’t want to confuse too many fans in thinking that this is the next chapter in the Star Wars saga.  Besides that, I can’t really find anything else that I can nitpick about the film.  The film was great and a great way to include some side story between Episode III and Episode IV.

How did Rogue One: A Star Wars Story do?  Having reviewed the recent box office results, it’s doing phenomenal.  While it didn’t do as well as The Force Awakens’ opening day gross of $119,119,282, it managed to still gross around $71,094,394. With it currently being the eigth highest grossing movie of the Star Wars series, I am confident that this will at least reach three or four very soon.  At the very highest, it will probably rank behind The Force Awakens. In rounding up the numbers from the past trilogy, Episode I grossed a $64.8 million weekend gross.  Episode II grossed $80 million and Episode III grossed $108.4 million.  For The Force Awakens, it grossed $248 million.  And what’s the opening weekend gross for Rogue One? Just $150.1 million.  Almost $100 million behind Episode VII a year ago.  The current domestic gross is $190.3 million. It’s not going to catch The Force Awakens, which made $288.1 million only six days into its release.  That’s almost a $100 million difference between the two domestic totals.  In adding the foreign gross of $166.8 million, the worldwide gross stands at $357.1 million.  With a production budget of $200 million, it has secured most of that in just one weekend alone.  And that’s just domestically.  This movie might crack the top ten, but it will have to work to get there.  It will certainly reach $1 billion eventually.  Casting my nitpick aside, I really loved this movie.  I loved the story behind the mission and how it was portrayed.  Yes, it was filler for Episode VIII, but I would rather them not rush the next movie if they are to get it right.  And the filler was quite satisfying.  Edwards was careful to not take the easy path with soundstages and actually film a lot of the movie on location, and using movable models for the ships, like they did in all the other ones.  Edwards has nailed it.  The story was a great edition,, and I encourage many others to see this movie. I would see it again, thus adding $7 more dollars to it’s total gross.  Star Wars is Lucas’s baby and Disney knows this. And with two good Star Wars movies in Disney’s hands, I am confident that they will successfully continue the legacy that George Lucas has started.  The opening crawl and the breathtaking visuals create a truly unique Star Wars experience.  And with the new characters and a solid plot, I am certain that this will become a new favorite that will be admired by generations to come. I eagerly await Episode VIII and I give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a 4.5 out of 5.

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