ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Direction: Gareth Edwards
Actors: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Another year, another iteration of the perennially popular Star Wars saga.
The good news is that Rogue One, a standalone prequel to the iconic 1977 original, is technically sophisticated and emotionally engaging.
Combining an elaborate heist story with a gritty war drama, the new origins outing focuses on a ragtag band of resistance fighters tasked with retrieving the blueprints to the evil empire’s ultimate weapon.
The plans of the Death Star, a doomsday device capable of destroying entire planets, are eventually acquired by the alliance’s princess Leia (Carrie Fisher, in a token snapshot cameo). The rest, of course, is movie history.
Sustaining a fairly high level of tension throughout the two-and-a-quarter-hour duration, director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, 2014) has also crafted some fantastical deep-space backdrops.
While the gravity-defying aerial dogfights are masterfully orchestrated, the cliffhanger climax fails to pack a punch despite the unusually high number of casualties on both sides.
The resistance army, led by an idealist outsider (Felicity Jones), includes an intelligence officer (Diego Luna), a blind warrior monk (Donnie Yen) and his trigger-happy sidekick (Wen Jiang).
Also in the good guys’ corner are a reformed pilot (Riz Ahmed, star of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, wasted) and a wisecracking security droid (Alan Tudyk, in a motion-capture performance).
Against the ‘dirty half-dozen’ count a megalomaniac militant (Ben Mendelshon), his legion of storm-troopers, and the biggest baddie in the universe, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones, reprising his voice role).
In addition to spiffy special effects, the narrative is populated with a gallery of computer-generated alien creatures.
There are some hilarious exchanges, such as when the ambitious warmonger is cautioned by the Dark Lord, “Do not choke on your aspirations”.
In supporting roles, Mads Mikkelsen as the heroine’s scientist father and the ever-dependable Forest Whitaker as an unruly extremist, are impressive.
On the other hand, the digitally recreated visage of the late Peter Crushing, one of the villains from the original film, is ludicrous.
Rogue One is reportedly the first of several planned Star Wars spin-offs. May the Force continue to be as strong in that galaxy far, far away…
Watch the trailer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story here