Ladies and gentleman, I have finally found a Star Wars film worth the price of admission. I was -3, 0 and 3 when the original trilogy came out, and when the prequels arrived in 1999 in the form of the Phantom Menace my friends Asa, Nick, Zach, and I were very excited to finally see a new Star Wars film in the cinema. Well that film and the two disasters that followed put a poor taste in my mouth for the years since. There was a bright spot when I discovered the Clone Wars animated series on Netflix. It was well done, fun, and action packed. It breathed fresh hope into the Star Wars franchise, at least in my mind, so when Force Awakens hit theatres in 2015, I was pumped and excited. Well that was a let-down of galactic proportions. The Force Awakens sucked even harder than I could have possibly imagined, so when Rogue One came onto my radar I was excited, and cautious with scepticism at the same time.
Well let me put all your fears to rest: this is a fun, entertaining movie that makes almost all the right moves. Perfect, no, but enjoyable enough that the morning after, I’d go see it again today without a second thought.
There won’t be any spoilers in this review, so read ahead without fear, for this review will be brief, and to the point.
Rogue One, as we should all know, takes place just before A New Hope. Princess Leia’s ship is attacked by the dreaded Lord Vader. She has received stole information and smuggles it into R2-D2 and sends him and C3PO off to find Obi Wan Kenobi. We know what happens next.
Well the film that results in the eventual destruction of the Death Star has been very well cast. To give nothing away, I’ll be vague. Rogue One did a nice job of bringing together a colourful cast of actors, some more seasoned to add gravitas, some non-native English speakers to give it a more global vibe, which is a good thing, and some non-human characters that really add to the mix. One character, who will go nameless, steals almost all best lines, and adds a bit of brightness and humour to this otherwise dark film.
If you pay close attention there will be plenty of micro-cameos from the rest of the Star Wars universe that will make you say, ‘I know that dude.’
I must make one slight spoiler here: there are two cameos that are done in CGI that are so poorly executed you wonder if they were added in once the films budget was spent. I’m talking about CGI on a level that should be an embarrassment to the people at Disney. I might be picky, but I found the results unacceptable. Not enough to ruin the film, but enough of a talking point that the music producer sat next to me raised it with ire after the lights went up.
Rogue One takes us on a trip around the Galactic Empire, exploring new worlds, some of which are breathtakingly gorgeous, as we follow the heroes on their quest to steal the plans for the Death Star. We also visit some classic locations that will make any fan happy. Some of these locations make you ask what insane architect would have dared build them, but I think that adds to the wonder of the Star Wars Universe. It also makes you ask how do all those small shuttles and fighters fly around the galaxy with such ease? Either they don’t need much fuel to travel, or the distances are not that great. The geek in me wonders about that issue, a lot.
This film also packs some good action. Blaster battles, hand-to-hand combat, and some action above the ground add to the ‘war-film’ vibe that was used to describe the movie. It’s well done and gets the heart racing at a few critical points. We know what happens: The Death Star gets blown into small pieces by Luke Skywalker, but there is still enough action and drama and moments of doubt that linger for our heroes.
I’ve been talking with a good friend about this film before its release. The expectations about what needs to happen to make this a Star Wars film for the 21st century in the guise of Black Hawk Down and the Magnificent Seven: our heroes fighting against the odds. I believe that the writers and director delivered a solid, action packed product that makes the right turns at the right moments and gives audiences something they deserve.
Episode VIII has much higher expectations after this, or perhaps I should keep my expectations in check for the future spin-offs: Han Solo and Boba Fett.