Let go of John Williams. Let go of lightsabers. Let go of those familiar names. Let go of the rigid formula and embrace a new one. It’s hard to not see an opening crawl or hear the Star Wars theme. Strange new planets, new vehicles, new characters, new motives. It’s the biggest risk Disney and LucasFilm could have made, but when the dust settles and the credits roll, you’ll want to go right back and experience it again.
Director Gareth Edwards is clearly a man brought up on the galaxy created by George Lucas back in 1977. The mix of old and new is crucial here; maintain what we know and expect from both sides of the trilogies but give us something new to invest in. There is humour. There is heart. There is life, and there is death. This is a war film. This is a Star Wars film if ever there was one that doesn’t follow the complacent check-list of what fans may now expect.
We have Felicity Jones and Diego Luna as Rebels Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor who, amongst other newcomers, all give us new spins to the heroes we’ve come to expect. No dashing Jedi or campy droids here; we see real, war-weary spies and pilots and fighters who at times blur the line between necessary good and bad in order to get the job done. The cast put their all into the roles, and granted they have a huge task to help us invest in their unknown characters in such a short space. All have their moment to shine, all form a rag-tag band of real rebels and they all are talented actors – stands out for were Donnie Yen as blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe who has such a fun and impressive role, and also Jones who is the strongest, spikiest female lead we’ve had in a galaxy far, far away.
With stellar support from the excellent Ben Mendelsohn as Imperial Director Orson Krennic, the ever dependable Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso and Forest Whitaker as Rebel Saw Gerrara, this is a diverse and well-rounded cast who certainly evolve during their film. It’s refreshing to have an Imperial villain in Mendelsohn who doesn’t always need screen time to know his menace. He fronts the Empire as a villain themselves; a mighty war machine, not just a single scary character.
We have fantastic visuals in the form of new planets like the barren desert world of Jedha, the rainy canyons of Eadu and tropical beaches of Scarif. The pacing is perfect because Edwards knows he needs to ease us into this “new world” gently but as a quick enough pace to keep the thrills and plot moving. From a steady start, to an exciting middle to a mind-blowing and perfectly executed finale, we don’t get much chance to question new ideas because there’s no flab on this film.
Dogfights across blue skies with a war-zone on the beaches below is something ripped from the computer games we’ve played over the years. These new heroes and villains leap from the pages of books we’ve read outside the films. ‘Rogue One’ puts the wars back in Star Wars in the bravest way possible that delivers thrills, emotion, excitement and gorgeous moments you never saw coming.
Buckle up and enjoy this well produced, well-acted and breath-taking adventure that proves there is so much more to Star Wars than what we have come to know.