Directed by Gareth Edwards, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first in a series of upcoming standalone Star Wars films which takes place just before the events of Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) but after the prequel trilogy. It follows a group of rebels during a time of conflict, who begin a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, the Galactic Empire’s superweapon,
Whilst a new trilogy begins with The Force Awakens, which was released the year before this standalone film, Rogue One tells the story of an all-new adventure with mostly new characters, and that’s why you’ll either love it or hate it.
Proving that it is different in tone and style from the traditional Star Wars films from the very beginning, ditching the opening crawl and transitional screen wipes, the first half of the film, at least, doesn’t feel like it fits into the franchise at all. It’s dark and gritty, and is more about the war efforts in a dystopian society than of the adventure that comes with it. Personally, that’s what I enjoyed so much about, but it’s also what made me so cautious of it at the beginning.
Following a misfit group of insurgents who stand up against a rising authoritarian regime, Rogue One follows, at its core, the definition of what the franchise is all about: being a part of a rebellion who join forces to take on the Dark Side. Yet it feels very short for a Star Wars film, despite how big the events are that it showcases. Maybe it’s because it’s a single film and our knowledge of what’s going on comes from what we know about the franchise as a whole, rather than having three films for us to get to know these characters and anticipate their next moves.
But mostly, it’s because we will only get to see these characters the once that they don’t feel as well developed as the other more iconic characters in the franchise. Whilst Jyn (Felicity Jones), Cassian (Diego Luna) and Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) will be remembered for their brave actions, although maybe not by name, Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baze (Wen Jiang)’s relationship will have an impact at the time of watching, you will laugh at K-2SO’s (voiced by Alan Tudyk) bluntness, and you will also remember that Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker were involved somewhere, you’re likely to forget about most of these characters in the context of the franchise, despite how relevant their story is.
And that’s what it comes down to, I suppose, that this is a story worth telling. Although the first act of the film doesn’t feel like an operatic space adventure, the third act really gets into it as it progresses into a more traditional space war full of aerial dogfights, armoured combat vehicles, explosions and blasters.
The effects are flawless and it looks fantastic from beginning to end, but it’s definitely more for fans of the original trilogy than of the new characters and adventures of the recent films. I must also add that it definitely gets better on repeat viewings, and I certainly don’t think that it is an instalment that should be easily dismissed.