Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
"Like so many recent sci-fi/fantasy films, Rogue One both follows what came before, and delivers a much darker take on events."

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…how come the Death Star blueprints ended up on a hard drive in the possession of unlikely hero, Princess Leia? Why does she hand them to loveable droid R2D2? Why is the Death Star’s first major outing the planet of Alderaan? And is Rogue One really episode VIII in the Star Wars saga? Or IV? Or minus I? Or something else entirely?

Rogue One answers the first three, while leaving room for endless debate about the rest: the same geek impulse that has supposedly grown-up guys wondering why Obi-Wan Kenobi appears to forget that Leia and Luke are brother and sister, or why it takes a whole year to track down Jabba the Hutt and rescue Han Solo, will draw renewed energy from this latest outing for the Empire, the rebel alliance and at least two prominent members of the Skywalker clan.

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For what it’s worth, I think this is really Star Wars IV, and everything upward now needs renumbering: but with episode VIII already slated to appear in 2017, and cannon firmly agreed that the first in the series was Episode IV – A New Hope, this seems unlikely. The advance PR rather misleadingly talks this up as outside the main timeline: just another story that happens to take place within the context of the Star Wars universe.

Perhaps. But it sure looks like prequel to me. The film kicks off with the recapture, for the Empire, of genius scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). Galen spends the next 16 years or so inventing the Death Star while abandoned daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones) becomes an accomplished streetfighter and dab hand at surviving the best efforts of Imperial stormtroopers to kill her.

All kicks off, as defecting Imperial cargo pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) arrives with information on what Galen has been up to, and the rebel alliance despatch intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to bring back Jyn and locate her dad; to inquire politely what he’s been doing (she believes); in fact – because the rebels are not the straight-dealing happy-go-lucky bunch we first encountered in the original Star Wars – to use Jyn as bait and kill Galen.

Supporting this ill-conceived mission is not-so-loveable droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), who, anticipating the deep misanthropy of Hitchhiker’s Guide star Marvin the paranoid android, gets to deliver the film’s most cutting, most pessimistic and simultaneously funniest lines.

Along the way they team up with blind, eccentric warrior-monk Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and Chirrut’s homicidal buddy, Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang). They also manage a sparky reunion with Jyn’s childhood saviour Saw Gerrera (Forest Whittaker): not quite Magnificent Seven – more like a magnificent six-and-a-half – but there is far more of a “band of heroes” feel to Rogue One than other Star Wars films. They fight one of the most exciting, protracted battle-plus-heroics Star Wars sequence to date, as Jyn assembles and inspires a motley platoon of rebellious rebels and goes toe-to-toe with Darth Vader, Imperial Science Officer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and Grand Moff Tarkin – a name, and a face, that will be very familiar to fans of the first film.

Like so many recent sci-fi/fantasy films, Rogue One both follows what came before, and delivers a much darker take on events. It is not, according to the head of Disney studios, a “political film”. This is an odd assertion, given just how politically previous directors, from Lucas onward, have considered Star Wars, possibly owing more to the fact that we now inhabit a world as much post-politics as post-truth.

In fact, continuing previous themes, Rogue One is a morality tale of good vs evil fascist authoritarians, with the question of how to deal with the latter much to the fore. Vacillating rebels seek uneasy alliance with extremist rebel Gerrera. Given the absence of overt politics, this suggests extremism is located in “doing something”. Against this is Galen’s undercover dissent (is he hero or villain?) and Jyn’s (initial) determined indifference.

There is meat aplenty for the geeks: back story filled in; reference upon reference that will get only those in whom the Force is strong. New faces and old, too: some, apparently delivered by the wizardry of computer animation, raise interesting questions over an artist’s rights regarding their own image. Overall, there is despair and Hope, with a capital H, a very clear pointer to what comes next as well, perhaps, as a clear commentary on present real world events: a constant rebuke to Disney’s CEO.

Reproduced with thanks to the Broadway Letchworth.

Reviewed on: 15 Dec 2016
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story packshot
Rebels set out to steal the plans for the Empire's deadly Death Star.
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Read more Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reviews:

Andrew Robertson ****1/2

Director: Gareth Edwards

Writer: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Jimmy Smits, Mads Mikkelsen, Alistair Petrie, Genevieve O'Reilly, Ben Daniels

Year: 2016

Runtime: 134 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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