Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Alistair Petrie, Jonathan Aris, Genevieve O'Reilly, Jiang Wen
Runtime: 2 hrs 14 mins
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Website: http://www.starwars.com
Opening Day: 15 December 2016
Synopsis: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is the first film in the new standalone movies from Lucasfilm. It tells the story of how a group of unlikely heroes unite to undertake a daring and seemingly impossible mission to steal the plans for the Death Star.
Star Wars remains one of the biggest if not the biggest (lucrative) cinematic franchise ever. And if you are one of those who cannot differentiate between any of the Star Wars movies except maybe pointing out “Hey! I know that Star Wars green creature whose name I forgotten”, the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story occur somewhere after Revenge of the Sith and before the beginning of A New Hope. (That famous green creature in the Star Wars universe happened to be Yoda.)
The latest entry to the famous space opera series has a plot that is thinner than the current state of Big Mac, to be brutally honest, and that’s coming out from a longtime Star Wars fan. To recap, (spoiler alert) at the end of A New Hope, Luke Skywalker actually flies a X-wing and blows up the Death Star via an exhaust vent. Decades later, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story basically address how Luke managed to accomplish that - and it begins .with a man called Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen from Casino Royale).
The gifted architect Galen unable to protect his wife and young daughter, Jyn, is forced to design and build the deadly Death Star for the evil empire led by none other than Darth Vader (James Earl Jones reprising his voice role) and the devilish Director of Advanced Weapons Research, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn from Netflix’s Bloodline). Years passed and Jyn (Felicity Jones) has grown up to be a pretty but angry and petty criminal, until her calling to join the rebels and form a group of ragtag warriors to steal the blueprints of the Empire’s deadly secret weapon - the Death Star, which ironically is designed by his father.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is basically a stand-alone movie trapped in a 39 year old franchise. At one end it tries to break away from the epic saga; and on the other it keeps reminding audiences that it is still a Star Wars story. When it does break away, the results are mind-blowing. Aside from a rather tepid and confusing first act, the movie starts to generate excitement once the various crew are assembled for the mission - the dreamy rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), cargo pilot Bodhi (Riz Ahmed), a blind zen-like monk Chirrut (Donnie Yen), an assassin Baze (Jiang Wen) and droid K-2SO (motion capture performance by Alan Tudyk).
With a brand new cast headlining the movie, Felicity Jones is the new Daisy Ridley - in other words, another badass female heroine to grace the galaxy. Of course, whether it’s Ip Man or the unpronounceable Chirrut Imwe, Donnie Yen particularly his swift kung fu moves shines with his limited screentime. The scenery chewing Ben Mendelsohn as this outing’s villain deserved more. The rest of the human characters unfortunately are less memorable not taking into account countless planet hopping and political talk to muddle the outing. Not exactly a major spoiler but Lord Darth Vader appears showcasing why he is the most feared leader of all time.
It’s an unspoken tradition that Star Wars needs a memorable droid be it R2D2 or BB8. Tudyk’s K-2SO is both deadly and funny, providing some ticklish one-liners in an otherwise serious movie. Surpassing the rest of the other Star Wars movies in terms of innovation, the creatures’ and production design on display is brilliant! That’s because there are plenty of location shooting and animatronic effects.
Disney has promised this outing will be much grittier and it simply means the body count is much higher than The Force Awakens. But this is apparently a good thing and the biggest accomplishment I must admit. The war sequences are staged with realism akin to old war movies when the troopers and rebel soldiers engaged in heavy artillery during the finale. We have seen battle on the icy planet Hoth in Empire Strikes Back, the harsh rocky planet Geonosis in Attack of the Clones and the volcanic Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith. Get ready for planet Scarif, a Maldives-like setting that is too beautiful to be destroyed by AT-ACT walkers and X-wings.
While director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) was rumored to be removed at some point during production with reshoots and rewrites ongoing, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actually benefitted from his contribution. J.J. Abrams was blamed for sticking to close to formula for A Force Awakens; however there are obvious parts where Rogue is close to venturing into the unknown until Disney executives tow it back to reality. Despite Disney playing it safe, Rogue One is no doubt a breath of fresh air to the franchise. The effects are flawless, there are eye-popping non-CGI creatures and the galactic fights are enthralling. The force is definitely strong as compared to Lucas’ prequels.
(A Star Wars movie that nearly doesn’t feel like one and that’s for sure a good thing)
Review by Linus Tee