Star Wars: Rogue One released little over a week ago, and I am still reeling. The first of the non-episode films in the Star Wars saga, many were wondering how it would measure up to the main story. Well, I can honestly say, the film is everything I have wanted from the Star Wars franchise and so much more! It features a decisively darker tone than any of the previous films in the series, preferring to focus on the journey to obtain the plans for the Empire’s ultimate weapon: The Death Star. It puts the agony of the prequels far behind and moves the series forward in a truly compelling way.
First off, the film tells a complete story centered around a fantastic cast of characters. It is worth noting that this is, by far, the most racially diverse cast in Star Wars history. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of an Imperial Engineer, sets out to find her own place in the universe alongside the Rebel Alliance. Along the way, she meets Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and they set out on a tumultuous journey. The new droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), brings a snarky attitude and lovable quips throughout the darker Star Wars tale. But it’s not only the main cast who shine here. Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Forest Whitaker, and Mads Mikkelsen give exemplary performances that give so much more depth to the characters in the Star Wars universe.
While the story itself is sandwiched between episodes III and IV, we are still given most these characters’ storylines. The movie does an outstanding job of portraying the Rebel Alliance, not as an entirely good entity, but as a conflicted group of visionaries, saboteurs, extremists, and assassins, who act in pursuit of the larger goal: freedom. Director Gareth Edwards delivers just the right amount of nostalgia without overwhelming the viewer. He succeeds in showing us so much more of the world of conflict between the Alliance and the Empire. Fans of the originals will have memories of your first viewing of Episode IV all come rushing back. Even Darth Vader returns in all of his menacing glory.
The film, at its core, is a war movie. Two sides, pitted against one another: one for control, the other for freedom as they skirmish across the galaxy. And yet, there is far more depth to it than face value. The storytelling is rich, exploring new areas of the Star Wars cinematic universe. Only time will tell what the future of standalone Star Wars films will hold. We will look forward to Episode VIII in 2017 and the Han Solo film in 2018.
Ultimately, if you are a fan of the Star Wars franchise, there is plenty for you to love in Rogue One. However, if you are a newcomer to the franchise, then do yourself a favor and treat yourself to one of the most compelling stories brought to the silver screen in recent memory!