Reviews: “we have hope” – Rogue One, a Star Wars Story
Rogue One (A Star Wars Story),
Directed by Gareth Edwards,
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whitaker, Weng Jiang, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Ben Mendelsohn
“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope.”
Set between episodes three and four, this is the untold story of the Rebels who risked their lives to bring plans detailing the weakness of the Death Star to the Rebellion. The line that brought the pathos from Star Wars (I’m old school and don’t call it an episode) was from Mon Mothma as with the heaviest heart she said “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” is fully explored in Rogue One. Short version of this review – for me this is now up there with Empire Strikes Back.
The reason for this is that Empire Strikes Back is filled with the heroic characters from Star Wars, who got mostly their own way in the first film, all being hit hard with the truth of life. You don’t always get the girl, and when life is going well you either get frozen in carbonite or have your hand chopped off. That is at least my own experience. There is also the facing down of your biggest fears that is involved with Empire. Han facing his old friend Lando, Luke facing Vader, and Yoda facing the fact that the time has come to train the last Jedi, well possible last, there was another.
As a kid growing up in the early 80s Empire was our Coronation Street and East Enders, the adults had the darkness of reality to face and we had Empire, we had the heroics but we also had the horrible truth that being on the side of Right and being A Hero doesn’t mean life will let you win. Rogue One manages to talk to those of us old enough to remember the dark times after the destruction of the first Death Star with a story that may not be suitable for younger children the way that The Force Awakens brought the fun. This film is about the dark successes of the Rebellion and prices paid; think more French Resistance fighters in a WWII film.
The film centres on Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, a headstrong girl just trying to survive in the new Empire. Her Father is the original Science Officer that brought the Death Star to life from the plans we saw in Attack of the Clones. Dad is played by Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen, and he does not want to help the Empire build this planet killer but also knows that if he doesn’t they will build it anyway, so he designs in a flaw to the construction that we all know about. Jyn joins forces with the Rebellion to discover what this flaw is. She’s joined by the Rebellion agent Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), mouthy droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) a blind beggar who believes in the force but is not a Jedi, and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) a gun slinger. They see the destruction that the Death Star can cause on a small scale and realise that it’s down to them, along with a small band of Rebel fighters to find the complete plans of the Death Star so the Galaxy far, far away has at least a shot at freedom.
Gareth Edwards directs what is the darkest of the Star Wars films that we’ve ever seen, and it feels like some of the books from the series that I’ve read through the years. We see the more expansive universe around our loved characters. With lots, and oh boy do I mean lots, of what you younglings call Easter Eggs to the Original Trilogy, and those films that George Lucas forced upon us after the Original Trilogy. I don’t call these Easter Eggs, I call this more the greatest hits of the Star Wars Universe. Lots of little but amazing nods to the films and the animated shows, characters that just by turning up or saying a line that means so much to the fan in me, they just made me smile. Edwards brings in the best of modern technology to create this world.
Remember that this is a one-off film set between Episodes three and four. There I conceded to your youth, and as such in the back of my mind I knew what was going to happen to these new characters, but it’s so well formed and directed that you cling to hope.
For me the character of Jyn Erso is fantastic, and Felicity Jones is having a great year, if you take Inferno out of the picture and forget that she was in that, which is the right thing to do. But the scene-stealing droid of K-2SO and the voice of Tudyk is just amazing, you want more but at the same time are happy that his lines are limited, because each one is just perfect. Ben Mendelsohn plays the main villain of the piece and he just nails the baddie role so well, you’ll just love to hate this guy, and that’s a great performer.
Rogue One, and I want to stress this to you all, is a film that gives us a glimpse of the story behind the story that we love. It’s dark and probably will upset some people, but for me the Force is strong in this one and I’ll watch this as many times as I’ve watched the original films, and probably see something new in every viewing. The film lulls in the middle of the drama, but that’s sometimes needed; if it was action all the way it wouldn’t have the impact that it has, we need that slow moment to get to know all of the characters more. The Dirty Dozen feel to the film is justified and Edwards shows that he has a genuine love for the series of films. I’ll be honest here that as a fan of the series myself, and I’ve lost my Man Card a lot this year, I cried at a few times during this film. A film that evokes the emotions in a fan is a good thing, and this film is more than a good thing, so join the fight once more and be a Rogue. As always May the Force be with You.