Warning!!! This review spoils EVERYTHING about Rogue One, if you haven’t seen the film and DON’T want to know, stop reading NOW!!!
Still here? Okay, continue!! (But remember, you were warned!!)
Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, OH.MY.GOSH!!! Thursday night, 9:45 p.m., the long wait finally ended and I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first stand-alone Star Wars film in the Anthology series. And oh boy did it deliver!! The film does have one flaw, but I’ll get to that after a bit, let’s start with one of the best parts of the film…
DARTH VADER IS BACK!!!
Let’s all be honest, I think most of us who have gone to see this film did it because Vader was showing up (I know that certainly helped to sway my decision). This is the first time Vader (in all his armored glory) has graced the cinematic screen since Revenge of the Sith in 2005 (though granted that was a very short appearance). In Rogue One, Vader is at the height of his power and general nastiness. Believe it or not, he’s in the film for not quite ten minutes (split into two appearances): his first scene takes place on the lava planet Mustafar where he’s since built an imposing castle-fortress to reside in when he’s not on some mission for the Emperor. I THOUGHT I recognized the planet, but I wasn’t sure until a YouTube review from @StupendousWave (my favorite source for Star Wars news) confirmed my suspicion. Not only do we see this amazing fortress, we also see Vader, briefly, as we’ve never seen him before: completely armorless in a bacta tank. It’s only a few glimpses, really, but it was more than enough to show how little remains of Vader’s human body before he re-armors in order to greet Director Krennic properly.
Speaking of Krennic, he’s the main antagonist for most of the film, or at least he tries to be. Krennic comes across as one of those villains who assigns to himself more importance than he actually has. For instance, a major sticking point (with Krennic) is that he receive the proper credit for developing the Death Star for all these years. When this credit is about to be taken away from him (by a certain character that I will discuss shortly), Krennic dares to whine about this to Vader, who Force chokes him for his troubles.
I really thought that Krennic would meet his ultimate fate at Vader’s hands, but what really happened was almost as good. The film’s climax takes place on the tropical planet of Scarif, where the Death Star plans are stored in an archive. The Rebels, led by Jyn Erso and company, infiltrate the base, and Krennic (arriving around the same time) moves to stop them. Ultimately, the Death Star arrives and after a long engagement with the Rebel fleet, the Death Star is ordered to fire on the base, destroying it. Krennic, badly wounded from a blaster shot, is trapped on the base’s communication tower and witnesses the weapon he helped create firing on the planet, knowing there is no way he can escape the shock wave in time. Talk about irony!!
And who orders the Death Star to fire? Who is taking the credit for this great achievement away from Director Krennic? Why, Grand Moff Tarkin of course! You know, the villain portrayed by Peter Cushing in the original Star Wars film in 1977? Yes, him!!
But wait, I hear you all say, didn’t he die back in 1994? Yes, yes he did! And yet, here he is! I confess, I did NOT see this moment coming. I partially blame this on being buried in dissertation work, but also on a slight misunderstanding on my part. I, of course, heard the news very early this year that Disney was working on a CGI replication of Cushing’s character. However, when the main villian was announced to be Director Krennic, I was under the impression that they had scrapped the CGI-Cushing idea. It never dawned on me that they were going to do both!
I mentioned that the film has one flaw, and, please don’t be upset, but that flaw is Tarkin. Don’t misunderstand me, the character as he appears on screen is a remarkable achievement. Digital creations of a human character have come lightyears in terms of appearance and believability and Tarkin is so realistic it’s scary. But…it doesn’t quite work. The first time we see Tarkin, he has his back to the audience (though you know instantly who he is). The big reveal comes when he turns around, and the moment I saw him, I KNEW what they had done. You can see the CGI elements in the way Tarkin moves his head and speaks. The “uncanny valley”, as it were, is still in effect. I WAS able to suspend my disbelief some of the time though, so for me it wasn’t a fatal flaw. I am curious to know what you all thought of seeing Tarkin brought back to life again.
Moving on to the rest of the story and our heroes, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor and K-2SO make a great trio. Jyn is the daughter of Galen Erso, a brilliant scientist forcibly returned to the Death Star project by Krennic, and also the man responsible for placing the fatal flaw inside the Death Star that leads to its destruction in Episode IV. Jyn, his only child, has lived on her own for years, and loves her father very much. She is initially recruited to the Rebellion because the Alliance is searching for her father, and a Rebel extremist named Saw Gerrera has in custody a defecting Imperial pilot who came from the installation where Galen works (it’s a little complicated, but still good!)
Outside of Jyn, K-2SO might be the best character on the side of the heroes: he’s an Imperial droid reprogrammed by Cassian and he has the snarkiest sense of humor you’ve ever seen, but his loyalty to Cassian (and the Rebellion) is unquestionable. He and Jyn do not get along for most of the film, but by the end, they’ve earned each other’s respect.
My other two favorite characters are Chirrut and Baze Malbus. They were formerly Guardians of the Whills (they served at the local Jedi temple on the planet Jedha, they can feel the Force, but can’t actively control it the way a Jedi could) before the Empire, and now they are inseparable. Chirrut still believes in the Force after all this time, while Baze has become more of a skeptic. Chirrut has this habit of praying over and over “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me, I am one with the Force and the Force is with me, etc.” He’s actually blind, but is so in tune with the Force that he can fight as well as any sighted person.
And speaking of the end, deep down, I think I knew this was going to happen, but I was secretly hoping at least one of them would get out alive. Yes, you heard right, in the end, none of them make it off Scarif. Jyn, Cassian, K-2SO, Chirrut, Baze, even Bodhi (the defecting Imperial pilot who has been helping them), one by one, they all die. Jyn and Cassian are the last, they successfully transmit the Death Star plans up to the fleet, but immediately afterward, the battleship fires on the planet. It’s not enough to break up the planet itself (the weapon isn’t quite finished yet), but it is enough to destroy the base. The blast is set out in the nearby ocean so it takes a few minutes for the destruction to reach the pair. Jyn and Cassian have just enough time to reach the beach, reflect on what they’ve done and embrace before they meet their end in a fiery cloud of death. It’s terrifying to me because as they sit meeting their end, Jyn is facing the shockwave as it comes, and you can’t help but wonder what she’s feeling, knowing her death is seconds away.
And the Easter eggs in this film boggle the mind, simply because there are so many of them! Let me see if I can name more than a few: there’s several sightings of Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits reprising his role from the prequel trilogy); Jyn and Cassian (literally) bump into the pair that tries to assault Luke in the cantina on Tatooine (“He doesn’t like you, I don’t like you either…”); R2 and C-3PO pop up for a split second at Yavin base; in possibly one of the best Easter egg moments, the characters of Red Leader and Gold Leader are featured, briefly, in the climactic battle over Scarif in a clever re-use of some footage from Episode IV; and there are several references to the Star Wars Rebels series (listen for the page asking for “General Syndulla”). There’s more, but that’s most of them.
Lastly, I have to talk about the music. I was so nervous about Michael Giacchino composing the score for this film, and I was terrified it wouldn’t be any good. While I still need to go back and analyze the score, my first impression was very favorable. It definitely helps that Giacchino re-used several of Williams’ themes at key points in the story (particularly the Imperial March, I would’ve been furious if he’d left THAT out). The music definitely isn’t bad, but how GOOD it ultimately is I can’t say just yet (I need to listen to the soundtrack separate from the film before I can give a definite opinion).
Rogue One is a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon, though it treads dangerously close to the line with its use of CGI to recreate certain characters. The Easter eggs make this film a fun watch for any Star Wars fan.
It was WEIRD having no opening crawl (and no Star Wars fanfare), I almost wish they would go back and recreate the opening to have a crawl anyway.
It was cool (and a little freaky) to see Peter Cushing’s Tarkin walking and talking again, they’ve almost nailed recreating a human character in full CGI (but NOT QUITE)
Ending the film moments before Episode IV begins was a nice touch, though I am somewhat not okay with how they recreated Princess Leia. I would have preferred seeing her from the back only.
I am so happy we got to see Vader use his lightsaber!!!!! After the first scene, I was terrified that we weren’t going to get any more Vader, not even with his lightsaber, so seeing that at the end was fantastic!
And those are my thoughts on Rogue One. What did YOU think of the film? Loved it? Hated it? Already in line to see it again? Let me know in the comments below (first chance I get I’m going to see this film again, that’s for sure).
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