My goodness, director Gareth Edwards had some pretty big shoes to fill – Rogue One had to bridge the fairly sizable gap between Episode III and IV, it had to tell a great story about how the plans for the Death Star were acquired, it had to fit thematically and visually with all the other films and yet still feel fresh. Other films have tried that and failed – in this very franchise. Anyway, that’s a tall order. Luckily, in my mind, Rogue One succeeds on all counts.
Rogue One breaks with tradition a bit, first with the title that doesn’t actually begin with the words ‘Star Wars’ and also no opening exposition rolling across the stars. I knew about this going in of course, there having already been an uproar about it before the movie even came out, godblesstheinternet. But there are some essentials that have to be in every Star Wars movie – Jedi, funny droids, space-ship fights, planet killing weapons and cool aliens. Rogue One hits every one of those, to some degree or another.
Of course where this story is placed in the grand arc of the franchise, there should be no Jedi and more battle, and exactly that’s what we get. So much fighting. Make no mistake this is a war movie, albeit in a sci-fi setting. There was a feel of a grand battle, it really established the battle between Rebellion and the Imperial forces. There really weren’t that many aliens (just one new one that I counted) and only one Jedi-like character (though he was completely bad-ass). Funny Droids were a big yes – this is my favorite droid EVER; every time he spoke, I laughed. And of course there was the Death Star, but instead of going Bigger (like The Force Awakens), they went smaller to much better effect. After all, destroying a planet looks small from far away but a smaller explosion, sending tectonic plates rolling over themselves and everything else, it’s massive when you’re looking at it coming towards you.
By the time the movie had ended, you could have plugged in Episode IV without losing a beat The characters from Episode 4 were perfect. Grand Moff Tarkin, for example, was flawless. Apparently he was CGI but I wouldn’t have known unless I was actively looking for it. Peter Cushing (Tarkin) was 64 when A New Hope came out 1977 and he passed away in 1994.
There were a few things I was less excited about. At 134 minutes, it was a bit on the long side, especially when some of the battle scenes seemed a bit lengthy. There weren’t enough weird aliens or Jedi. Also there weren’t enough lovable, handsome Solo-like guys who occasionally show some skin. These are mild (and mostly unreasonable) quibbles; there was really nothing wrong with this film.
So is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story worth seeing? Of course it is, silly. I’m going to see it again in theatres. I loved how this movie answered so many little criticisms and quirks of the other films. That’ so richly satisfying to me. Little things like “why would they build a giant death star with a catastrophic flaw in it – wouldn’t quality control catch that?” (spoilers for A New Hope) I’m liking this ‘one Star Wars per year’ thing. Maybe sometime soon they’ll remake the the first three films? With less Jar-Jar and more Darth Maul?