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Saturday, 24 December 2016

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

Warning!: Contains Spoilers!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
 Rogue One is the newest installment in the fantastic Star Wars franchise set in between the events of Episode III and Episode IV. Directed by Gareth Edwards and, written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy we finally have a good prequel to the Original Trilogy. This review contains spoilers so if you wish to read my final verdict please skip to the end.

The Rebel Alliance frees former rebellion and criminal Jyn Elso (Felicity Jones) to get close to breakaway rebel leader Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) who has information from a defecting Imperial pilot (Riz Ahmed) about the Empire's new superweapon. With Rebel pilot Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), spiritual warrior Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and a mercenary Baze Malbus (Wen Yiang) she finds out that her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson), has been forced by Imperial Lieutenant Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelson) to create a superweapon named the Death Star.

The plot to Rogue One is very well done and unlike the prequels it feels much more in line with the rest of the Star Wars universe. This may be because Rogue One was a more self contained story which directly leads onto the Original Trilogy contrary to the prequels which tried (and failed) to create an epic on par with the originals. Rogue One also makes the Empire seem more of a threat to the Rebel Alliance. The choices done with the plot makes the Empire seem an all encompassing, totalitarian regime and the Rebel Alliance a small force which can easily be snuffed out of existence. This made the story far more gripping. Spoiler alert but the ending seemed highly appropriate for the film. Although I did manage to more or less guess the ending by the last act of the film it was still fitting. The attack on the planet containing the Death Star plans did seem to be a suicide mission, and I am really glad that they went down this route of being a suicide mission. Also, I like the way it seamlessly transitioned to the start of Episode IV. When this is released I want to watch the two back to back to make the start of Episode IV seem even better.

Characters and Acting
Some of the Cast
Without a doubt the acting in this movie is really good. Particularly from Felicity Jones; I thought that she stole the entire movie. Especially her interactions with the other actors. None seemed forced and overall it seemed natural making it easy watching. Alan Tudyk as the droid K-2SO. I am a big fan of Firefly and really enjoyed him in it so it was a pleasure hearing him in the movie. Like Wash in Firefly he managed to create quite an amusing character which added some more light moments in a considerably dark movie. Forest Whitaker as always was good. He pulled off an extremist freedom fighter losing his mind very well and reminded me of his role in The Last King of Scotland where he played the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Ben Mendelsohn was surprisingly good, although at times in the final act his acting bordered on the overly eccentric. Diego Luna was quite good but at times when interacting with other actors his acting seemed somewhat off which was a slight issue. 

I liked every character in the movie. Jyn Elso by far was my favorite, and I thought she was well written and realistic. She was a very realistic character so with the additional superb acting from Felicity Jones it easily made her the best character. Also, I was very glad for the addition of Saw Gurrera from both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star War Rebels. His addition in this movie was both a nice way to end his character cycle, and actually introduce characters from the Extended Universe into the mainstream movies. I'm hoping that this opens the doors for the introduction of other characters like Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade. Galen Erso was a very good character being a Star Wars version of Robert Oppenheimer. He seemed someone who clearly wished to note aid the Empire but had no choice in the matter. Overall, the characters were really well written in this movie.

Like The Force Awakens the effects in Rogue One were fantastic. I am really glad that they have continued with the trend of mixing practical effects and CGI together to create a visually stunning movie. This creates another strike against Jurassic World now as that film only used CGI. I am hoping that this opens the door for more movies to combine practical effects and CGI. It was so good in fact that at one part I was watching an alien and wondering whether it was CGI, practical effects, or both. The superb effects allowed a greater level of immersion into the universe created by the film makers. Only the effects on General Tarkin and Princess Leia seemed off. What they did had actors play Tarkin and Leia and then use CGI to make them look like Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher respectively. The Tarkin effect was alright most of the time but the Leia one seemed almost like it was from a video game. Not outright bad but compared to the earlier effects it was a bit disappointing. Overall the effects were very good.

The Universe
Lord Vader
Rogue One feels like it belongs firmly in the Star Wars universe. It adds to the movies and brings in aspects from the wider canon. Darth Vader has gone back to his formidable roots from his whiny Anakin persona of the prequels, and now we finally have a Vader which shows him as a powerful Sith Lord in both presence and fighting style. Much like Marvel's current Darth Vader comics we get a truly powerful Dark Lord of the Sith. The worlds we see seem to be natural parts of the Star Wars universe. Jedha being caught between the iron fist of the Empire and the harsh guerrilla warfare of Saw Guerrera among the ruins of a Jedi stronghold made a world which belonged in this franchise. The inclusion of Saw Guerrera and kyber crystals (which power lightsabers) has opened a potential to include the Extended Universe into the movies. Maybe Admiral Thrawn to appear in Episode VIII? Or for the First Order to be secretly working with the Yuuzhan Vong? Or maybe a prequel set during the events of the video game Knights of the Old Republic?

Rogue One is easily one of the best entries in the franchise and I would go as far as to say that it is my second favorite Star Wars movie (after Empire Strikes Back). For good acting, good characters, and fantastic effects which makes a movie which truly belongs in the Star Wars universe I'm giving Rogue One a 8.5/10. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.

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