Jyn Erso(Felicity Jones) learned at a very young age what it feels like to lose everything you love. When her father Galen(Mads Mikkelson), one of the architects behind the Death Star, is taken in to finish plans for construction of the evil empire vessel, she is forced to grow up the hard way. Without parents to guide her upbringing, life leads her on a path towards criminality, and into the hands of the rebellion, led by Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor.
Welcome to a prequel that works and aides the following films instead of feeling tacked on for good measure and money clip tightening.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story skips the usual opening quirks and exerts itself quickly. It is director Gareth Edwards’ attempt to make his own Star Wars saga and also properly introduce new exciting characters like Jyn, Cassian, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut, Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook, and Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. While lacking the slam bang spectacle of 2015’s Star Wars: A Force Awakens, this prequel to the very first film, A New Hope, is an exciting addition to the family that will quench the thirst of Star Wars addicts needing something before the next sequel that is set to arrive next December.
Edwards didn’t mess around in assembling a dream duo of writers in Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz. Each screenwriter supplies the required anecdotes that the series has thrived on for decades. Light action, depth, and comedy mixed in like seasoning on a steak. Weitz’s comedic background comes in handy, especially with the new robot sidekick K-2SO(Alan Tudyk), while Gilroy’s knack for action thriller tension is put to fine use her. Together, their script keeps things moving while applying light touches.
Jyn, Cassian, Bodhi, Chirrut, and company have to stop the evil plans for the Death Star from being completed or figure out a way to stop it from destroying every planet in the galaxy. It doesn’t take much more plot than that for a Star Wars faithful fan to know how the film is going to go. There isn’t foolhardy complexity up this film’s sleeve. It basically sets up the action for the 1977 original. The cast is what elevates this film from standard procedure to worthy activity.
It’s sinister kid Vader antics that will endure to the legion of fans that loved this villain more than most cinematic heroes.
Jones and Luna anchor the majority of the plot. A pair of loners with enough red on their ledger to team up and do something right for a change. Whitaker and Mikkelson lend much needed gravitas. Chen is the real star here, playing a last action hero aka Jedi trying to keep what is left of the force alive for his comrades to feed off of. Chen is an accomplished martial artist in real life, and his fight sequences are fantastic.
Let me answer the million dollar question. There’s a fair dose of Darth Vader for the old school lovers. He pops up only a handful of times for a total of maybe ten minutes, but the final appearance is one to savor for months. It’s sinister kid Vader antics that will endure to the legion of fans that loved this villain more than most cinematic heroes. James Earl Jones makes a triumphant return with his voice work.
Ben Mendelsohn puts in fine work as Commander Orson Krennic, a man who thinks he has power yet slowly realizes that the force is required to truly acquire any resemblance of it. Edwards gathers two of the best screenwriters and one of the best casts to relaunch a story that many experienced for the first time just about forty years ago.
On May 25th, 1977, movie fans were witness to the first glimpse of events that took place a long, long time ago in land far, far away. On December 16th, 2016, a new crowd can witness the rebirth of it all. This film gives you a glimpse of the worst laid plans that a group of rebels tried to thwart.
Rogue One is exciting, but also one of the first Star Wars films to acknowledge the blunt force trauma that is war. Characters that you come to know and love inside two hours won’t make it to the finish line, and the writers aren’t afraid to rock the boat of expectations. If people need a break from the powerful yet depressing Oscar slate of movies, Rogue One will take care of you. It’s a true escape.
It’s not a great film and it isn’t without its flaws. A few too many tricks from the previous films is borrowed, and after you’ve seen one laser beam gun fight, it gets old upon the entry of the seventh gun battle. The film has a slow middle section that almost alienates the casual film fan. This isn’t award worthy filmmaking. It’s a summer film that sneaked out in the winter. A rousing and soulful conclusion does save this film. Without it, the rest of the film wouldn’t feel worth the time.
Rogue One proves that you should walk in the door for the spectacle, but stay for the soulful touch placed on top of the end.
Buffa Rating: A solid cup of coffee that will put a smile on your face and make you want another.