Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) by The Critical Movie Critics

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)


A fairly long time ago, in a land not very far away (Hollywood, to be exact), the creator of a billion dollar movie and merchandising empire parceled off this gold mine to another group of moguls (Walt Disney Studios), yet still holds an almost mythic-like control over much of the material. In other words, the new owners of the George Lucas “Star Wars” franchise has no intention of putting this golden goose out to pasture anytime soon.

Thus, just one short year after the release of the sixth sequel, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), fans of the series receive an early Christmas present with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which precedes Episode 4 (“A New Hope,” the original film from 1977) by one year and concentrates on the rebel alliance’s efforts to steal plans which could lead to the destruction of the Death Star (“That’s NOT a moon”). And while this picture is technically not an official part of the universe (just like 2008’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which took place between “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones” and “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” or any of the Wolverine origins stories were not really part of the “X-Men” films), it is nevertheless an exciting and adventurous chapter which bodes well for the future of this franchise for many more efforts to come, if done correctly.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells a familiar tale with new faces, a new narrative, but ties everything together so nicely that it seamlessly fits into the first episode (although later to become episode four), the only “Star Wars” film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award (I always thought that “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” should have been given a nod, as well, but hey . . .) Directed by Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) and written by Chris Weitz (“Cinderella”) and Tony Gilroy (every Bourne film except “Jason Bourne”), but based, as previously written on George Lucas’ original story, which was itself inspired by films like the Flash Gordon serials and the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, as well as such critical works as Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Frank Herbert’s Dune books.

Well, actually, it’s based on one line of that first screenplay where the rebellion leaders, with the Death Star’s plans in tow, inform the pilots that a great many people sacrifice their lives to obtain these documents. Thus, this is that story. While the film takes viewers to a number of planetary and moon-like destinations, from rebel bases to Galactic Empire security fortresses to mining complexes, we are introduced to Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen, “Doctor Strange”), a reluctant science officer who had a part in the creation of the Empire’s ultimate weapon, but leaves when he discovers the potential harm it can cause. He is located on a remote planet by Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn, “Mississippi Grind”) and forced to return to continue his work.

Upon doing so, he leaves behind his tiny daughter, Jyn, who is found by militant rebel Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker, “Arrival” and an Oscar winner for “The Last King of Scotland”) and raised by him.

Years later, Jyn (Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”), on her way to an Imperial labor camp, is rescued by an alliance intelligence officer, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, “Blood Father”) and used as a tool to find out more information on a defecting Empire pilot (Riz Ahmed, “Nightcrawler”) being held by Gerrera. Joining them is the film’s only comic relief, K-2SO (voice of Alan Tudyk, who also did vocal work in “Moana”), a reprogrammed Imperial droid that’s a cross between C-3PO and General Grievious (from “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”). He has some of the best lines — dry, sarcastic and just plain hilarious — in the movie and becomes one of the episode’s most memorable characters. Also tagging along is a blind semi-Jedi monk, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen, “Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster”) and his bodyguard, Baze (Wen Jiang, “The Sun Also Rises”).

Despite seeing what pain the Empire has caused, Jyn is still not endeared to the alliance, either. She has witnessed destruction from both sides and really wants no part of any organization. Andor, too, has committed unspeakable acts in the name of the rebellion, preferring to forget those moments and concentrate on the eventual promise of freedom from tyranny if the insurrection succeeds. But after a skirmish and near non-escape from the Death Star (funny, the Empire can design such a deadly device, but cannot figure out a way to keep a heavily-armored stormtrooper from being killed with a stick), Jyn comes aboard and is soon trying to convince rebel leaders where the plans for the Death Star are being held and how best to get them. The alliance doesn’t buy it, so the group decides to go “rogue” (hence the picture title) and plans an attack themselves.

Here, the pictures takes a decidedly “Saving Private Ryan” turn as rebels storm the beach and battle stormtroopers, star destroyers, Imperial walkers (the two- and the four-legged kinds), Krennic and even Vader in an effort to steal the plans. Well, since we’ve all seen “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” there’s no spoiler alerts needed to let readers know they succeed, but at great sacrifice. There will be even more gasps of recognition as the picture ends with one more nostalgic turn. The screening I attended then burst into spontaneous applause.

Ardent fans will be most pleased with this installment, while younger viewers will be caught up in the explosions and great battle scenes. Thanks to the efforts of Greig Fraser’s cinematography (he lensed “Zero Dark Thirty,” among others) and a special effects team led by Neil Corbould (Oscar winner for his work on “Gravity”), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story lives up to the top-flight bar raised by other films in the franchise and does not disappoint visually or otherwise (the recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin is uncanny and almost flawless in its execution and will take fans back to the 1977 motion picture). Jones — who redeems herself from her turn in the unfortunate “Inferno” earlier this year — is a standout as the feisty, but reluctant, heroine, while Mendelsohn seems to relish in his villainy, even challenging Vader and Tarkin for the most sneering bad guy in the “Star Wars” lexicon.

Beware, however, there are no cute Ewoks or annoyingly cloy characters like Jar-Jar Binks to laugh at here. With it’s bleak storyline and intense battles, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is one of the darkest Star Wars episodes since “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” but is also one of the best after that movie and the inaugural “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.”

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
5 Star Rating: Fantastic

5

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The Critical Movie Critics

I have been a movie fan for most of my life and a film critic since 1986 (my first published review was for “Platoon”). Since that time I have written for several news and entertainment publications in California, Utah and Idaho. Big fan of the Academy Awards – but wish it would go back to the five-minute dinner it was in May, 1929. A former member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and current co-host of “The Movie Guys,” each Sunday afternoon on KOGO AM 600 in San Diego with Kevin Finnerty.


'Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)' have 21 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 1:25 pm Jally Ordbuilder

    It’s got some pacing issues and suffers from pre-knowledge on how its going to end but generally it is a solid addition to the franchise.

    Reply

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 1:39 pm Waheed

    I am not a fan of Rogue One even though I like it more than Force Awakens. The characters had no depth to them, so it meant nothing to me when they met their demises. The look and feel is unoriginal at this point which scares me because unless they go the Marvel route of layering in subgenres we’re going to keep getting the same thing again and again. Lastly, the whole stealing of the death star plans seems like a cop-out way to plug up a hole from the original Star Wars to me.

    Reply

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 1:57 pm lasercat

    Loved it. Looking forward to seeing what happens next..

    Reply

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 1:59 pm xcitizen

    Decent enough story and cool effects and all but I didn’t have any connections to any of the characters. I especially didn’t like whatever in the hell Forest Whitaker was doing. Guy was doing a clown performance with his smokers voice, breathing mask theatrics and robot feet.

    Reply

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 2:22 pm Mel

    I’ll take Eps 1 -3 over this.

    Reply

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 2:40 pm Emcee Barnes

    Great review, I loved it also. It has everything a Star Wars fan could ask for: respectable to the lore, incredible visuals, ships and battle sequences, interesting characters (no they did not need deep back stories to be engaging), and the Peter Cushing and Darth Vader cameos were awesome.

    Reply

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 3:33 pm LexingtonSteele

    Saw it 3 times already- it is the best Star Wars to date.

    Reply

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 3:42 pm hell on

    The franchise needed a kick in the ass and Rogue One does the job. It’s got more ominous tones to it, the rebels know all bets off high and they’re running a suicide mission. The high stakes pressure, no room for error last half kept me on seat edge.

    Reply

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 4:01 pm Tabloid Hickey

    It didn’t make me feel like I was watching a Star-Wars film. Very formulaic, like every movie produced by Disney.

    Reply

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 5:34 pm Dente

    Great review. Rogue One fits nicely into the timeline and improves A New Hope considerably. I disagree on one point though–the recreation of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher was ghastly. Nothing about them looked like a living breathing person.

    Reply

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 6:22 pm whitman

    To bad this Force Awakens wasnot.

    Reply

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 6:41 pm stairglider

    I love how it stands on its own as a stand alone film and at the same time was a great bridge between 3 and 4.

    Reply

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 6:57 pm Yibeeb

    Loved it all. I left the theater with a grin from ear to ear!

    Reply

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 7:19 pm talented mr. carvel

    The last Darth Vader scene floored me.

    Reply

  15. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 7:45 pm weed smokez

    Act 3 was good because of the battle action but I was bored to death during the first 2. Shoddy dialogue, characters, plot and score. I was really hoping for something entirely different from Gareth Edwards, the man who made Godzilla great again.

    Reply

    • The Critical Movie Critics

      December 19, 2016 @ 10:54 am 4SELF

      Edwards did give you something different. Rogue One is a complete break from the norm; once it gets agoing it’s a great space raid movie with little wasted motions.

      Reply

  16. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 10:07 pm PJ Beck

    The perfect salute to fans of the franchise. It had just enough of the old to rekindle the connection and plenty of new to add to not make it derivative.

    Reply

  17. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 18, 2016 @ 10:38 pm LectricEagle

    Plenty to nitpick but it ain’t worth doing … just enjoy the show!

    Reply

  18. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 19, 2016 @ 2:30 am sound_of_force

    Vader’s voice sounded old. With the complete CGI of Leia and Tarkin it should have been easy to synthesize his voice instead of asking James Earl Jones to try and do it.

    C3PO and R2D2 adds were a nice nod to the faithful.

    Reply

  19. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 19, 2016 @ 3:11 pm reset

    “Be careful not to *pause for dramatic effect* choke on your aspirations.” Vader showing the Dark Side gives him the power of the quip too.

    Reply

  20. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 19, 2016 @ 11:17 pm Mu

    best star wars eva

    Reply


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