The film i’ve been looking forward to all year, hoping and praying that The Force Awakens can be quickly forgotten, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is finally here. Directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) the story takes place before that of the first Star Wars movie made way back in 1977. The empire is putting the finishing touches to their super weapon named the Death Star. The alliance is fragile and on the verge of surrendering. A young girl by the name of Jyn witnessed her father kidnapped by the empire. Said father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) was a scientist whose skills were needed to develop the Death Star. As Jyn is older she receives a hologram from her estranged father saying he had created a weakness in the Death Star and that the rebels only hope was to get their hands on the Death Star plans that would exposure the weakness that Galen had created within the trenches.
The plot-line of Rogue One could have easily been written by a four year old. Retrieve the plans, send the plans to the rebels. That’s it. No more no less.
Jyn (Felicity Jones) is accompanied on her plan retrieval mission by Rebel intelligence agent Cassian Andor (Diego Luna); and his reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk); a blind warrior /Jedi / Monk, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen); Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen)a guy with crazy gun skills; and a former Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), who has defected to the rebels.
Rogue One is one hell of a spectacle and when I saw it in all of it’s IMAX beauty I couldn’t help but be amazed at everything I was seeing on screen, but then I had a thought. Why was I enjoying it so much? The moment I answered my own question the illusion kind of fell apart and I was left entertained but equally disappointed as I had once again fallen trap to the Star Wars hook, the Star Wars line and the Disney sinker.
With it’s vast array of characters, character building in Rogue One is almost obsolete. The film bounces around from planet to planet, character to character without so much as giving us any background information on anyone other than Jyn, and even that is told loosely at best. We see Jyn as a young girl in the opening of the movie and instantly we fast-forward many years to an adult Jyn without so much as even an explanation as to how she fended for herself or what she’s been up too all of these years. Her chemistry with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is also just hinted at, you’re waiting for it to happen asking yourself questions of when will they kiss? Sadly, this relationship doesn’t have a foundation to stand on as it is never established. Everything is a fast paced cycle, whirling faster than an X-Wing engine with fighting scenes and nostalgia hurtling us towards a rather abrupt end.
The one character who shines brighter than the rest however is a droid. Bringing back the magic of droid comedy is K-2SO who is the stand-out performer of the entire film. Voiced by Alan Tudyk K-2SO brings humour to the dullest of moments and lights up the screen with his every appearance, making this droid the only character in the movie the audience can really care about or connect with.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story heavily relies on nostalgia to guide everyone through it’s lazy, half hearted story. Over-cramming everything unnecessarily as a wink and a nod to previous movies and including un-needed character cameos who serve no purpose to the story other than the audience reaction of ‘Look it’s….’. The constant referrals almost re-assuring itself that it’s a Star Wars movie felt forced and uncomfortable, arms out wide like Bruce to Jennifer Anistons character in Bruce Almighty begging us to love it.
If you look beyond the characters and focus on the nostalgia you’re going to have one hell of a time thou. The effects are outstanding especially in IMAX, the fight sequences are jaw dropping, the CGI model of Peter Cushing is scarily realistic and opens up a weird, almost morbid future of re-incarnated actors and Vader’s final scene of the movie had me clenching my buttocks in excitement blown away by the sheer awesomeness that I had just witnessed. If the final scene of the movie didn’t exist I’d of easily have given it one less star in this review. The end-scene was just.. incredible and perfectly links into the beginning of George Lucas’s original movie. The only niggle that I had with Darth Vader is that his costume looked like it was brought in a Disney store, it certainly didn’t have the same build quality or menacing look of the vader of old, those cheap looking space-pants just didn’t sit well with me.
As a stand-alone movie it blows The Force Awakens away in many aspects but with it being a part of one of the biggest franchises in the world, Rogue One almost has a pillar of strength behind it to support the movie. With a plot so simple and characters you can’t grow to care about (apart from our imperial droid) it really doesn’t matter because at the end of the day it’s a Star Wars movie and it’s going to do well. Fans across the world will support it, buy the merchandise, dress in the costumes and defend it till the cows come home when a 25 year old lad from Stoke on Trent says it was a Disney fanboy fest. Having the strength of a franchise does leave the movie open to criticism from the die-hard fans but at the same time if you throw in the nostalgia, add in some of the magic of the originals which Rogue does in spades, you just can’t fail in terms of Box Office success. Rogue One is a fun-time at the cinema but a sad realisation that the essence of telling a good story is slowly being over-looked in many blockbusters as of late.
Look past the story, look past the characters and you have Star Wars magic in all of it’s glory and beyond all the criticism above I still really enjoyed it, but the reason I enjoyed it is simply because it’s Star Wars. Take this story and throw it into any other non nolstagic universe and it would be a box office dud, no doubt about it. It’s not good enough to compete with the originals, but it never dared to be different in any shape or form so it certainly fits snugly around the Star Wars of old like a comfort blanket and doesn’t feel out of place. Forget the prequels, forget The Force Rehashed (Awakens) and Rogue One is the first step in hopefully a group of improved Star Wars universe films to come, I just hope they throw in a good story and more loveable characters in the next one instead of cramming the screen with fanboy character winks and nods that you can find at every Comic Con in the world just walking around.
May the force be with you future film-makers.