by Lachlan Anderson
Rated M. Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn. Directed by Gareth Edwards.
In 2012 when the Walt Disney Company bought Lucasfilm for a staggering $4 billion, Star Wars fans were overjoyed. Not only was their beloved space opera series now in the hands of the very capable Disney team, they were also given a promise of a lot more Star Wars content. Last December saw the release of the hugely successful Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and only a year later we are treated to yet another tale from the galaxy far, far away….
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not your typical Star Wars film though. It’s the first anthology movie from the series (or a film set in the same universe but not one of the numbered episodes which revolve around the Skywalker family). With this one Lucasfilm are bravely going for something different.
Jyn Erso’s (Jones) father was taken by the evil Galactic Empire when she was a child to build the most destructive weapon in the galaxy. 15 years later Jyn finds herself reluctantly helping the scrappy Rebel Alliance to find her father and retrieve the schematic plans of the now completed and terribly destructive Death Star. She and her band of Rebel spies must go up against incredible odds to retrieve the plans and shift the balance of power in the war. For those unfamiliar with Star Wars, Rogue One takes place just before the events of the 1977 original Episode IV: A New Hope.
Rogue One is at its best when it confidently moves away from the well-loved Star Wars style. Rather than a sprawling space fantasy opera, Gareth Edwards’ film is more like a war film. Saving Private Ryan in space perhaps? It has enough of the spirit of the originals in it so that we know we’re in the same universe as Luke, Leia and Han but it still feels like its own film for most of it. There’s plenty of great action and a fresh plot. However the shadow of those films still looms large, like a more successful older sibling you can’t help but be compared to. When Rogue One relies on referencing or mimicking those classics it feels… forced.
There are plenty of great actors to round out the cast but largely they aren’t given much to do. Alan Tudyk is on good form as the scene-stealing K2-SO but it’s hard to care for just about all of the other characters. Some pretty poorly thought out CGI doesn’t help matters either.
A story all about rebellion is going to provide lots to think about. The core characters face almost certain death for their cause, freedom. Their path isn’t easy but their hope keeps them going. What hope drives you? When the odds seem stacked against you, do you have a sure hope to hold on to? Christianity presents us with an assured hope that will carry us through the hardest of troubles.
The Verdict: A worthy entry into the Star Wars canon, Rogue One feels like a fresh take on the universe George Lucas created. Great action is let down by underwritten characters and kinda cringey call-backs to the original. But seeing Darth Vader on screen again is always going to be a positive. 3.5/5
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is screening now in cinemas worldwide.