Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 2 hrs. 13 min.

Release Date: December 16th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Gareth Edwards Actors: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Genevieve O’Reilly

 


 

A

fter her parents are taken from her by Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) of the Galactic Empire, young Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is left to be raised by opposition extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Years pass and her troubled upbringing finds her imprisoned in an Imperial labor camp, while her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) has become a notorious science officer for the Empire. When Jyn is rescued by members of the Rebel Alliance, they inform her that Galen has been building a new weapon with unfathomable power, and that they need her help to locate and stop him before its completion. Partnering with a Rebel Captain (Diego Luna), a reprogrammed enforcer droid (Alan Tudyk), an Imperial defector (Riz Ahmed), and a cadre of intrepid warriors, Jyn sets off on a perilous mission that will reshape the outcome of the ultimate battle against tyranny.

To set this chapter apart from the numbered entries of this increasingly unwieldy franchise is a slightly different opening sequence – though it’s augmented by unmistakable music, designed to sound very much in line with John Williams’ famous themes. This is despite the fact that Disney’s Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino has taken over the duties. But graphics and music aren’t quite enough to generate the grandiosity with which most of the “Star Wars” pictures begin; the cold open here sets up some of the characters but is practically anticlimactic when it comes to the title, the heroes and villains, or even the starships and settings they inhabit.

The biggest boon for this intermediary prequel (a middle piece less of a preceder than the official prequel trilogy) is the lack of baggage generated from focusing on characters and conduct swirling about in the thick of the Darth Vader storyline. It’s use of a more self-contained plot is also commendable, as it allows for scenarios to play out independently from the worlds so familiar to the preexisting works. However, instead of embracing this to the point of an acceptable distancing, the film chooses to mix in myriad nods to “A New Hope,” which might please diehard fans but will surely upset more casual moviegoers. Harmless references or homages would have been fine; the lengths “Rogue One” goes to cross paths with some of the core personas is just desperate enough that it ruins the mood (and arguably the look) during key moments. Some audiences will be awe-inspired; others will be horror-struck at the needlessness of such endeavors, especially since the payoff isn’t worth the potential for failure.

Like “The Force Awakens” before it, there are counterparts to several major players from Episodes IV-VI, which is now becoming an unfortunate pattern as the scope, adventures, and universe in this iconic space-opera series continue to grow. Genuinely fresh roles are harder to dig up. Outposts all resemble Tatooine or Mos Eisley; bustling cities are indistinguishable from Coruscant; and villainy is personified by faceless soldiers or militarily-garbed zealots. Explainably, but nevertheless disappointing, is the lack of the Force; the time period indeed takes place after the Jedi have all but vanished, and before Obi-Wan takes Luke under his wing, but the central, mythical superpower has been reduced to an arcane religion.

As for visuals, the aerial dogfights and shootouts are still detonative and fast-paced, if repetitive, demonstrating a verve for graceful CG maneuvers amidst chaos and destruction. The intensity of violence and assaults is slightly more than typical, especially as a paradisiacal, tropical planet provides an uncommon (and highly amusing) battleground for beach-storming and jungle warfare. But, gone are the moments for poignant, meaningful duels or showdowns, as all the laser blasts and bombs that ignite each surrounding serve to distract from the dullness of the supporting characters (Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang are two of the most insultingly immaterial roles) or the lack of a really potent antagonist. Mendelsohn is good but underused; Luna has his moments but never becomes individualistic enough to surpass the more notable “Star Wars” scoundrel pilot; and Whitaker’s role is the greatest letdown, as the film skips over the events that transformed him into a radical, which are, incidentally, the formidable years for Jyn – further lending to holes in her history and development. Jones is entirely watchable and a suitable hero (even if she’s driven by the flimsiest of movie motives), grandly redeeming many of the unsound decisions throughout for a rare, impactful finale (prior to, clumsily, additional parting shots). It’s too bad that her story wasn’t the only one being chronicled during this very specific adventure in the exploits of the Rebellion.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10