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Three Views: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

December 16, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

rogue-one-posterRecounting the events of the rebellion hinted at in the opening crawl of the original 1977 film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel that actually works.  Directed by Gareth Edwards, the film expands upon the mythology of the series in ways both inventive and resonant, with a dark and gritty tone that makes it feel like a welcome change of pace.

The film follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a Rebellion soldier whose scientist father (Mads Mikkelsen) was taken when she was young to work for the Galactic Empire, helping build the planet-destroying Death Star.

As an adult, Jyn is recruited by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) and sent to steal plans for the super weapon from Commander Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).  Joining her on the mission are a ragtag group of rebel soldiers including Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), the militant who rescued her as a child and is controversial in the more moderate parts of the rebellion for his extremist measures, Rebel Alliance leader Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed).

Felicity Jones does an excellent job of carrying the film, both in the physical action scenes and quieter dramatic moments, and she is backed up by a solid supporting cast.  Donnie Yen is a standout member of the ensemble as a blind man who is wise to the ways of the Force and has mad stick fighting skills, even taking down an army of stormtroopers in one of the film’s most pleasing action moments.  Wen Jiang is also memorable as his best friend, a ruthless marksmen who harbours doubt and has to regain his faith in the Force.  There’s also a delightful non-human sidekick in the form of K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a reprogrammed Imperial droid who has a tendency to speak his mind in any situation.

Although early buzz for the film was plagued by reports of ample reshoots, there are no hints of them in the finished product, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story comes together pretty seamlessly.  This isn’t to say the film is flawless, as it does take a bit of time to get started and can feel a bit long at 139 minutes, especially considering that the overall outcome is rarely in doubt.  But the film works more often than not, building towards a suspenseful and exciting finale when their plan is actually put into place.

Like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rogue One is a prequel that succeeds at building upon and fleshing out the world of its series, geared mainly towards those who grew up with the franchise and are ready for something a little darker.  This is essentially a battle film, wrought with complex politics of rebels versus fanatics and the perils of warfare, and while this more serious approach makes it far less accessible to young audiences, it makes the film that much better and more interesting as an artistic achievement.  This is a film about characters making sacrifices for the greater good, focusing on the planning, effort and impact behind staging a rebellion against a corrupt dictatorship.

The film also fits into the larger fabric of this universe in some really great ways, with a lot of clever little throwbacks to the original trilogy, including a couple of sinister appearances from Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) himself.  This is a dark and gritty movie for those who take Star Wars seriously, providing an entertaining and emotionally resonant bridge between the series.  And by the time the final scene hits, which ties it directly into A New Hope in pretty seamless ways, it’s hard not to leave the theatre feeling thoroughly satisfied.

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Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review By Erin Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The first of the stand-alone Star Wars films, Rogue One takes place right before Star Wars: A New Hope.  The film also opens without the customary scrawl that has opened every other Star Wars film to date.  In fact, the events of Rogue One are based on the scrawl from Episode IV.

We first meet Jyn Erso (younger versions played by Dolly Gadsdon and Beau Gadsdon) as a kid living with her parents Lyra (Valene Kane) and Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen).  When Imperial soldiers come, they take Jyn’s father hostage as his engineering skills are of use for building the Death Star.  Despite being searched for, Jyn manages to hide and when we meet her years later as a young adult (now played by Felicity Jones), she has become a scrappy thief, cynical to the world and stealing to get by.

But the Rebellion comes calling, breaking her out of a prison transport because they need her help.  They believe her father is still alive and now crucial to the Death Star’s completion, and they need her help to get him back and steal the plans to the giant weapon.

We all know where the film is going to ultimately end up due to the original film – but how we get there and who will survive are the questions that keep us watching here.  That being said, the second act does drag a bit before it picks up again towards the end.  At two hours, twenty minutes, the film could have easily been a bit shorter.  At points it is also darker than The Force Awakens in my book, and that worked.  On that note though, the youngest members of the family may be better left at home.

Felicity Jones is very good in the leading role, and the supporting cast around her (Mikkelsen, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk etc.) all also do well with their roles.  The special effects were well done, and I also quite liked the re-purposed Imperial droid K-2SO, who provided just the right level of dry humour.  The end battle sequence is very well executed and it was in these moments that I found the film worked best.  The score (this time around by Michael Giacchino with elements of the original John Williams themes) works very well, and still has the feel of a Star Wars score.  As for the 3D, to be honest, I barely noticed it, so in my opinion you could take it or leave it for this one.

Overall, Rogue One is a entertaining (if a little long in parts) addition to the Star Wars canon.

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Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review By Tony Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not part of the trilogies, lacking some of their features such as the main title theme and opening crawls. However, it does provide a new plot point, namely how the Death Star plans mentioned in the opening crawl to the first (1977) film (A New Hope) were stolen.

As a child (Beau/Dolly Gadsdon), Jyn Erso hid while her father Galen (Mads Mikkelson) was taken away and forced to help design the Death Star. As an adult (Felicity Jones), Jyn is taken into the Rebel Alliance in an attempt to find her father before it is too late to stop the weapon. The militant revolutionary Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) who had hidden Jyn as a child received a message from her father delivered by a defecting Imperial transporter Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) that sets the Alliance on its quest for the plans. The ragtag group that goes out on the mission led by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) includes a reprogammed Imperial droid K-2SO (voiced by  Alan Tudyk) and two martial artists: Chirrut (Donnie Yen), whose deadly staff and faith in the Force more than make up for his blindness, and Baze (Wen Jiang) who relies more on brute force and a very big gun.

Despite its lower status in the Star Wars universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story provides a good compliment to the saga, with the same production values, a good director (Gareth Edwards) and fine cast. There are brief appearances of the evil Empire leaders, including Darth Vader (with his Leitmotif and voiced again by James Earl Jones) and other British-accented villains and some of the good guys to keep things relevant.

The film is rather long at 134 minutes and dark, heavy on politics and combat with little of the Force-based fantasy of some of the other films, but is at least not as boring as Episodes 1 or 2. Since sex and cussing (both absent here) are considered less child-friendly than violence in the US, it can still be aimed at the family market there, though younger kids may find it difficult without a fairy-tale ending.

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Consensus: Serving as a dark and gritty prequel that plays seamlessly into the original classic, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a compelling if slightly overlong entry into the series that is carried by an excellent ensemble cast. ★★★ (out of 4)

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