There was a time when a new Star Wars film might fill you with dread rather than excitement, but in the capable hands of Disney and JJ Abrams, ‘The Force Awakens’ proved there was life within the franchise yet, and Episode VII turned out to be an overwhelming success.
Making the bold decision to move away from the episodic story for the first time ever (look, I don’t count the Ewok movies), ‘Rogue One’ promised to expand on the Star Wars lore, and give us the story behind a paragraph in the opening crawl to ‘A New Hope’ which you may have very easily glossed over. Telling the story of just how the Rebels stole the plans for the Death Star, ‘Rogue One’ single-handedly manages to tick all of the Star Wars boxes, yet also comes across as something so fresh and exciting, recreating the feeling that you might have when watching one of the films from the original trilogy for the first time. Yes, ‘Rogue One’ is just as good as the films in the original trilogy, and yes, it is even better than ‘The Force Awakens’.
‘Rogue One’ quite rightly feels like something set outside of the Star Wars universe – there’s no familiar opening crawl for starters – however it is still very much a part of it, both aesthetically and thematically. It looks and feels like Star Wars, yet also feels like something completely fresh and different. It is sometimes easy to forget you are watching a Star Wars film when watching ‘Rogue One’, however this is in no way a criticism. It combines elements you love from Star Wars, yet creates a film which could just as easily stand on its own as a really entertaining war movie; it’s neat, self-contained narrative only helps to serve this, yet it is undeniably and so intrinsically woven into the Star Wars universe that it is hard to ever imagine a time when this story didn’t exist, in the movie universe at least. ‘Rogue One’ really does finish minutes before ‘A New Hope’ kicks off and it’ll make the most amazing of double bills – go on, treat yourself. The closing moments of ‘Rogue One’ are utterly thrilling, and any doubts I had about the story not being compelling because we basically know how it’ll end, are quashed long before the credits roll.
What Gareth Edwards has crafted here is utterly beautiful; it is arguably the most gorgeous looking Star Wars film, and the combat scenes and dogfights in particular are amongst the most spectacular you will ever see. The story never gets lost in the grandiose spectacle though, and there are some genuinely, really touching moments. The cast are on the whole really excellent, with Felicity Jones proving to be a badass and sympathetic heroine simultaneously. As expected, the star of the show is Vader – just try not to get chills when you see him for the first time! To spoil too much would be a crime, but I will just say that there is some incredible CGI work on some of the characters that will both blow your mind, and if you’re like me, make you weep with happiness as well.
The trailers had me believe this would be a very serious and dark Star Wars movie, and whilst it is that as well, it still has the trademark humour we come to expect from the franchise, and my word is it entertaining. The two hours simply fly by and you’ll find yourself wanting to watch it again immediately the moment it’s over. I really only have one criticism of ‘Rogue One’, and again it’s not something I will spoil, but there is one moment of unashamed fan service that I think it could’ve done without. Granted, it’s not quite as brazen and in your face as the prequel trilogy was with its attempts at “fan service”, but it was a little bit too wink-wink towards the audience, and didn’t add much to the bigger picture. With so many amazing things about this film however, it was very easy to overlook this, and I don’t doubt that some people will absolutely adore this moment.
Many headlines were touting ‘Rogue One’ as the best Star Wars film since 1977, seemingly forgetting the masterpiece that is ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ in 1980, and whilst this claim may seem bold, it is very nearly correct; ‘Rogue One’ might not be the best Star Wars film since 1977, but it is the best Star Wars film since 1980. Believe the hype, ‘Rogue One’ is amazing!