Ever since Disney attained the rights to George Lucas’s space epic, they’ve begun to build a universe much akin to their Marvel property: an expansive, multi-platform experience that transcends the bounds of normal cinema and almost always guarantees a grand box office turn-out. Rogue One is no different, despite it being a step aside from the main saga (and what is to be, it’s been confirmed, a whole new, six-episode series). Let’s jump right in—here are the top ten reasons why true, die-hard fans of Star Wars should get out and see Rogue One:
1. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). In keeping with the tradition of Lucas’s strong, female co-leads of Princess Leia in the original trilogy and Padmé in the prequels, here’s another character that stands tall—even among her warrior male counterparts. With her Imperial past and the sore lack of leadership amongst the panicking Rebel forces, she’s really the only one to lead her unit on their mission. Throughout the first two acts of the film, it’s obvious that she’s barely able to keep it all together, but that’s part of what makes her relatable. She’s a reluctant hero, quicker to hide and thumb her nose at the galaxy than fight and die for it, but realizes that all that’s happening is greater than any one of them, and rises to the level of her predecessors.
2. K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Going in, I knew this was going to be a far removal from anything we’ve seen in Star Wars yet (even when compared to The Force Awakens). For a reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2 has more personality than some of his human co-stars. Tudyk lending his voice to the role added that extra level of nihilist sarcasm and humor that lightened the otherwise-dreary tone of the film. He serves his purpose to the story well. His character arc is smooth, endearing; he’s a true part of the team, and proves his worth to the Rebel cause.
3. The atmosphere. It isn’t a Star Wars movie without that shared tonal inflection in the writing and place-setting. This film is grittier, darker, than the main saga, and I hope to see more like it in the future. With young Han Solo’s own movie on the spoke, this more grounded approach to a beloved franchise is an interesting step in the right direction. It’s a story about the people, not the science-fiction, of the series. This movie gets by without relying on what are now considered the classic good-and-evil tropes of a Star Wars film: the Jedi and Sith. Rogue One is a war film, between two opposing political ideologies, plain and simple.
4. You’ve nothing to lose, and everything to gain. There’s always been a stigma about “in-between” movies. Fantastic Beasts’s sub-par box office draw in its opening weekend, in my opinion, was because of its distance from the main Harry Potter saga and characters. Now, I loved Fantastic Beasts, and am looking forward to where Rowling takes it. Like that, though, everyone already knows what happens further on in the future of the saga, so…who cares? This film tells a crucial story about one of the most pivotal points in the main saga, and its strengths lay in us knowing what happens ahead-of-time. Then, the critical questions can be addressed: How do they get there? What happens in between this event and that one? Rogue One fills in the blanks without being an unnecessary, out-of-the-way venture.
5. The cameos. All this forthcoming information is on IMDb, and so isn’t counted as “spoilers”. The digitized roles of Grand Moff Tarkin and Leia in this film have been controversial, based on fans’ reactions on the internet. I, personally, was a little shaky—at least about Peter Cushing’s digital resurrection—but it fit. Really. The roles, themselves, may seem shoe-horned, as tie-ins to what becomes A New Hope, but the way they’re presented was bold. Going forward in the world of creative cinema, it’s a hurdle that most people may have to tackle, as actors pass. Besides those two, though, there are other cameos in the film which you’ll just have to wait and see for yourself.
6. Vader! The internet almost had a conniption when the trailer revealed Darth Vader’s presence in the film. While it’s not his film, per se…it still kind of is; it’s fulfilling to see Lord Back-in-Black at work in the background, even in what is essentially a spin-off movie. The scenes—yes, there are multiple—were brief, subdued, yet still aided the plot forward in its two-and-a-quarter-hour march. Vader’s appearance in the film wasn’t just throw-away fan pandering, and I’m glad for it. His is still one of the most intimidating of on-screen presences.
7. Diversity of cast members. A cynical droid, his Mexican captain, a Middle-Eastern defector of the Empire, and a young woman to lead them all. It’s a great time to be watching the movies, especially for the younger generation. Such on-screen diversity in characters showcases the coherence of the Rebellion when compared to the stark, WASP male hierarchy of the Empire. The Rebellion is an inclusive faction, welcoming in both aliens and multi-cultural humans. Empowering characters—like the blind Îmwe, the handicapped Gerrera, and young Erso—overcoming adversity and working together towards a common goal is a superb message to be sending to the kids watching, even if they don’t grasp its true meaning upon first viewing.
8. CGI v. practical effects. Again, while the digitizations look a bit tacky and shoe-horned, upon first viewing, it works for what director Gareth Edwards and company were trying to accomplish. Like JJ Abrams and last year’s The Force Awakens, there was a clever balance between computer-generated images and practical, studio-built effects. This attention to detail in crafting what’s seen on-screen acts dually as a showcase of the ever-evolving computer technologies and to cater to the classicists, like me. I enjoy seeing carefully-crafted practical effects, as well as expert CGI, and both lent well to the film. Rogue One still has the “feel” of an older Star Wars film, while remaining relevant as far as presentation.
9. The skirmishes (ground and air). I’ve always been a softie for Star Wars’s dogfights and naval battles. During this film, as well, I was sitting forward in my seat when the Rebel and Imperial forces clashed in the third act. There are excellently-choreographed ground battles, as well, that lent to the plot in entertaining ways. Each took true crafting, and shows the commitment of the filmmakers in creating their art. Their respective conclusions, as well, are satisfying and gripping.
10. Just the necessities. One of the big gripes I’ve heard about the original trilogy is the unnecessary, romantic sub-plot between Han and Leia. I don’t mind it, myself, but I can see where fans would have words about it. That aside, there are certain things in every film that take away from the overall splendor, or things that could’ve been added to make it better. In this film, there are no unnecessary elements. The only love story is between father and daughter, fighter and Rebellion. The typical beginning scroll-text is done away with, as well, in order to rope the audience into the plot right away; we know what we’re getting into, no introduction needed. Also, there are no Jedi, unless you count Vader. This is a behind-the-scenes look at the war for the galaxy, won by people who believe in the Force, but without it being a driving factor in events. That’s the true magic of the series, and what excites me for future stories from the Star Wars universe.
Next review: TBA!!