Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Forrest Whitaker
Review Author: Tony
This has hands down been Disney’s year, from a strong opening with the animated Zootopia, followed by a superb live action retelling of the Jungle Book, to the juggernaut Civil war and this month they’ve smashed it out of the park with Moana and Rogue One. It’s fair to say that Disney have a finger in nearly every pie at this point dominating the animated genre, superhero genre and now even god damn Star Wars. Even with box offices duds like The Finest Hour and Alice Through The Looking Glass mean nothing due to the financial return of the Marvel or Star Wars license alone. This kind of market dominance should usually raise concerns as lesser studios have recently reverted to by the numbers, low effort blockbuster films (cough Warner Bro’s, Sony cough), yet Disney are now in a comfortable position to make riskier films.
It’s hard calling anything with the name Star Wars attached to it a risk as the brand is an absolute phenomenon and whether you enjoyed The Force Awakens or not, it catapulted the brand into the stratosphere. Disney have guaranteed bums on seats with episode VII and episode VIII but the anthology spin-off films are certainly a less than assured thing and I have to admit I’m really not on board with a Han Solo prequel film. Thankfully Rogue One is a step in the right direction as we can now explore the universe outside of the central characters which seems so rich with lore.
For those who’ve been living under a rock I’ll give a quick synopsis. Before the events of the Original Star Wars, A New Hope, the galaxy has been ruled by the iron fist of the Empire who have subjugated countless planets and crushed any resistance. With the resistance almost crushed the Empire have put years of research and resources into a secret weapon wit the power to destroy planets. With hope slowly dying a handful of rogues and renegades decide to take a stand and deliver the plans for this secret weapon for the resistance in order to find it weakness, thus setting in motion the greatest sci-fi adventure series in the world.
Oddly enough It took me a while to get into the film. The first twenty minutes sees quick snippets of various planets and locations introducing different characters briefly. It’s frustrating as many of these locations look fascinating and I wished the film took a little more time to explore them. Some of the ensemble suffer this fate as well although most come across as enjoyable we never really delve into what makes them tick. The pacing is generally great but I will more time was delegated to the cast.
Right, I had to get my minor gripes out-of-the-way because I thoroughly enjoyed this film and can happily report its one of the few films that exceeded the hype this year. By far my favourite aspect of the film is its tone. Typically the Star Wars films have a fantastical quality with good vs evil and heroes and villains. Its less of a sci-fi series and more of an adventure. It’s this thick layer of charm that has made the franchise so endearing. But under all this excitement and adventure is a rather dark story of an evil overlord conquering the galaxy and wiping out anyone who opposes him with heavy fighting between the Empire (Space Nazi’s) and the rebels with heavy losses sustained on each side. Rogue One fully embraces this tone.
Rogue One is more of a war movie than an adventure, here we see the effects the conflict has on those living in the galaxy. Each of the characters has suffered in some way due to this never-ending war even making some of their actions very questionable. The rebels have always been painted as the good guys fighting the good fight but the film shows that even they have to resort to ruthless and immoral tactics to fight this war, it’s a dynamic I never thought would be explored and I love Gareth Edwards for finally going there.
Rogue One has plenty of little Easter eggs and nods to the original films to sustain every fans nostalgia boner but it keeps its focus primarily on the task at hand. I love the Force Awakens deeply but it did feel at time that the nostalgia was manipulative for a hardcore Star Wars fan. Still I have to say I screeched with joy when a AT AT Walker thundered onto screen (fantastic moment) and started blasting rebels into oblivion. The battle scenes are the best yet, even outshining the Battle of Hoth, it’s so raw and intense, the CGI is incredible.
Rogue One is a superb film to finish 2016 as it reignited my hopes for future blockbusters in 2017 (There’s a serious line up for next year). I’m looking forward to the announcement of the next Star Wars spin-off and pray that it can maintain even half the quality of The Force Awakens and Rogue One.