“From Lucasfilm comes an epic adventure – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In a period of great conflict, a group of unlikely heroes led by Jyn Erso, a daring fugitive, and Cassian Andor, a rebel spy, band together on a desperate mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.”
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens shortly before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope in which the plans for the Death Star are stolen. Given only a short line in A New Hope – “Many Bothans died to bring us this information”, Rogue One gives it an entire film, which is one of the most entertaining films in the Star Wars Universe.
The story follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who incidentally is not a Bothan, but nevertheless a very strong character who is propelled on this journey when she was just a child. Seeing her Mother killed and her Father dragged off by the Empire to create a super-weapon designed to bring peace in the name of fear, Jyn grows up in the care of freedom fighters who wage war against the Empire. Now older and concealing her identity, she is rescued by the Rebels as she is being transported into custody by the Empire. Citing that they need her help to set up a meeting with her former caretaker Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) in hopes to retrieve information from a defected cargo pilot who has smuggled out a message from Jyn’s father, the Rebels send Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid companion, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) to accompany her.
With tensions high in the Empire occupied ancient city, the three find themselves in the middle of an intense conflict between Saw Gerrera’s rogue faction and the Empire where they meet Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), locals and protectors of the ancient Jedi temple. After a short battle, the group is captured by Gerrera’s men and taken to see him. As Jyn finally gets to hear her Father’s cryptic message in which he details a flaw he built into the system of the Death Star in order to destroy it, the Death Star is moved into position to destroy everything in sight.
The third act follows the group as they learn where the Death Star plans are located and what they must do to retrieve them. This is also when the movie really picks up steam as it mimics elements of a heist film and a World War II film. With edge-of-your-seat exciting sequences, this makes Rogue One one of the most action-packed films of the franchise, with a ending sequence that may be one of the coolest moments in any Star Wars film to date.
The new characters created for this film are very well written, diverse, and not the perfectly molded character you may expect to want to sacrifice everything to become heroes. The trend of strong female leads continues to impress and motivate countless people, and it is inspiring to know that Disney is shifting that paradigm where female characters aren’t always princesses in need of constant rescue. Jyn Erso is commanding, with a tragic background and upbringing, yet still manages to inspire hope to those around her. What she wants most is to learn the truth about her father, and that dream keeps pushing her to do what’s right. Cassian Andor isn’t your typical hero either. He does what he has to to get the job done, which often involves brutal means. Still, he answers the call, inspired by Jyn’s heroism. Another thing that is done well here is a well-balanced bit of humor to go along with the intense action, which is where K-2SO comes in. With a very dry, sarcastic sense of humor, K-2SO provides the majority of the laughs in the film, which are all extremely well done and delivered with perfect timing. I had my concerns of droid humor after the Revenge of the Sith C-3PO battle droid sequence debacle, but thankfully that type of childish humor is no more. Chirrut and Baze also bring a great dynamic to the group, with Chirrut being blind and relying on The Force to guide is actions, and the brute force of Baze to help protect him. These characters are what make this film so memorable, and you are heavily invested in them despite the possible outcome.
What I think makes Rogue One so successful is how it captures the nostalgia from the original films. The Force Awakens did to a degree, but many, which I agree with, believe that they played it too safe, by almost recreating exactly the same story as A New Hope. Rogue One brings something which we’ve never seen before in this universe, while staying true to the feeling of the original films that everyone fell in love with.
Rogue One also brings back some key characters that ties this and A New Hope together, the most prominent being Governor Tarkin. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Tarkin is integral to the story leading up to A New Hope and the CG is really quite impressive. In the special features, the crew believes the technology had advanced enough to do this successfully. To that I have to disagree. Amongst everyone else in the room, Tarkin just didn’t look right, especially during his longer scenes. The human expressions just haven’t quite made it to that level on a CG character. Actors study for their entire lives to convey emotions with a single look, and this just doesn’t translate well in the long winded speeches and inflections Tarkin shows. Granted, the average movie-goer may not notice, as the person sitting next to me had no idea it was computer generated, just thinking that Peter Cushing had aged extremely well. Regardless, this is a tremendous achievement in filmmaking and technology, and it will be extremely interesting to see where technology takes us, and if the trend continues to bring back actors from the dead to act alongside the actors of tomorrow.
Rogue One is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.39:1. The transfer is fantastic, with no defects noticed. Color levels look great, and the film boasts some very impressive outdoor visuals with a stark contrast of black vs. white. There are a lot of darker scenes in the film, which reflects the tone of the film precisely.
The audio is presented in DTS:HD Master Audio 7.1. You can’t ask for much more when it comes to an action-packed film. Audio levels are great, with a very impressive use of surrounds that are in action most of the film, but never overpower the dialogue of the center channel. Accompanying the film is an amazing score, which Star Wars is known best for.
A bonus disc is included in the release which contains the Special Features. You can Play All, or watch them individually, but you get about an hour and eight minutes worth of interviews and featurettes which are all very fascinating and will want to be something you take a look at. On this set you’re going to see:
- The Stories – An intimate collection of stories that take you behind the scenes with filmmakers and cast to reveal how the film came to life.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, despite the unnecessary subheading, really is probably the best way possible to introduce the public to new stories which don’t contain the key characters you’re used to. If this is any indication of the caliber of films we can expect, we can all breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that Star Wars is in good hands.