Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen
For its legions of devotees, Rogue One, the first in a series of planned spinoffs around the Star Wars movies, will be exactly the film we wished for – filled with adventure, a motley crew of ragged heroes, rickety droids, grand spectacle and the one theme that binds this immense universe together: Hope.
But at this point, after 7 ‘episodes’ and numerous, seemingly endless adaptations that are unavoidable to anyone with a pair of eyes and a brain, we must ask ourselves this: Are newcomers even welcome to the galaxy far, far away anymore? Or have the last ships boarded, have they jumped into hyperspace, leaving the uninitiated behind?
The answer, of course, is no. Star Wars is for everyone; every boy or girl who has ever looked up at the night sky and wondered if there are other worlds out there. It’s for every kid who has ever pretended to be a hero, saving the day, with his friends by his side. Star Wars belongs to us now.
And Rogue One takes us back to where it began. For those familiar with the series’ chronology, you will know how this story ends. You will know that before there was hope, there was a rebellion – a rebellion for which many lives were sacrificed.
A weapon has been created by the Imperial forces, a weapon more powerful than any ever created. And it must be destroyed - probably with the help of a princess, her brother, and a scallywag with a spaceship. But that’s a story for another film. This one instead, is about the small group of rebels whose act of bravery made Luke Skywalker’s war possible. It’s about a new crew - the original crew – before Han Solo and Chewy and the Millennium Falcon, before R2 and C-3PO. It’s the story of the crew that must infiltrate the Imperial base, and steal the plans which will help the rebellion in their fight against the tyrants.
Our hero this time, Jyn Erso, like many Star Wars heroes before her, comes with daddy issues. She is a blank canvas, with a vague backstory and indecisive motivations. And that, unfortunately, is this film’s one major flaw. While the crew, as a unit, is tremendous, the individual characters feel more like placeholders, mere pawns in a grander story.
It really does feel like substantial chunks were taken out of the film, especially from its opening act – the most important one - which hurries through several character introductions, barely pausing for breath. And because of this, since his attempts at creating drama, especially out of the father-daughter story fail, most of the burden falls on director Gareth Edwards’ treatment of the spectacle.
And there, he succeeds. He has made a World War II movie, with its feet splashing about in the muck, its weapons and vehicles rusty with age, and its soldiers’ eyes filled with doom and emptiness. It’s a fresh new direction for the space opera series, shot in dirty handheld by DP Greig Fraser. Edwards, who brought a sense of Spielbergian scale to his Godzilla movie, and his debut Monsters, brings the same sense of wonder to Star Wars, his camera looking up in awe at the immensity of the Star Destroyers and AT-ATs, dwarfing our rag-tag crew. By his side, along with Fraser, is the composer Michael Giacchino. The John Williams is strong with him, what more can I say.
It was wonderful to see his name go up at the end, in that iconic blue font that once read George Lucas, and more recently, JJ Abrams.
But as we finish, I return to the thought that I began with. Will all the fan service fall flat? Will all those cameos, the return of characters we all love, some that we know of (Vader’s back!) and some we do not… Will it mean anything to a young kid discovering Star Wars for the first time?
There is no way for us to know. After all, there was always a first time, even for us. We must trust this series, a series that made us fall in love with scruffy-looking nerf herders, trigger happy fuzzballs and pessimistic droids. We must trust the Force.
May it be with you all.
Watch the Rogue One trailer here