Before you watch this movie, watch Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, or at least fill yourself in on the events from that movie. If you don’t, you won’t enjoy Rogue One nearly as much as you should, and then you’d be paying money and spending two hours on an experience that you could have improved.
Rogue One tells the story of Jyn Erso, the daughter of an Imperial engineer, who eventually becomes embroiled in a mission to destroy the Death Star, a weapon which the Empire can use to destroy entire planets. The battle scenes are endless and harrowing, you can attach yourself to the main characters, and the ending was genuinely heartbreaking. In comparison to Mark Hamill’s wooden acting, the entire cast deserves Oscar nominations. Rogue One was apparently 18 times more expensive to make than Star Wars and it’s safe to say that with better acting, cinematography, and effects, the emotional impact is multiplied accordingly. The second half isn’t a Star Wars movie as much as it is a war movie, and director Gareth Edwards really didn’t skimp on anything. The third act literally features a beach invasion scene with the outnumbered Rebels battling evil Imperial forces, and gives Saving Private Ryan a real run for its money! Like The Force Awakens, the experience is improved with classy throwbacks to the original. The scenes inside Rebel spaceship cockpits are deliberately made to look like vintage footage, some shots bringing you right back to the original trilogy. Reminiscent of Douglas Adams’ robots in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the sarcastic droid K-2SO provides some great comic relief.
I won’t spoil the ending, but seriously… iIf you know anything about Star Wars, you know the ending to Rogue One before you walk into the theater, but that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining and worthwhile. But on second thought, I will spoil Rogue One after all!
“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”
If you didn’t recognize this passage, don’t put a bounty on my head; those words were lifted directly from the opening scene of A New Hope—basically a TL;DR of Rogue One. There is really only one reason why this movie should exist, and that’s also considering every other franchise out there that rehashes its characters. But the beauty of Rogue One is seeing the events unfold. Suddenly, we have a story that depicts what the opening scene of A New Hope simply glossed over in 54 words. Rogue One is incredibly indulgent, but gratifying in the way that it puts the first 10 minutes of Star Wars into stunning context, adding a whole new level of understanding. Darth Vader’s menacing entrance becomes much more threatening, and Star Wars on the whole becomes pretty underwhelming, because it’s hard to appreciate the intensity of an $11 million film from 1977 when you compare it with a $200 million film from 2016. But that’s a good thing.
Rogue One was like $18.50 3D relish on a burger. It enhanced the original Star Wars trilogy by adding additional flavour and substance that it was previously lacking. It was an addition that was useless in the grand scheme of things, but helped to bring together the various ingredients and components that constituted the Star Wars universe, and in an amazing way.
I was conflicted after the credits started rolling; it was overall very enjoyable, and as emotionally fulfilling as a Star Wars movie can get, but I almost felt like it was a waste of time because of how self-contained it was. This wasn’t The Force Awakens, with a new cast of characters and an open continuation of the saga; this was 2 hours of backstory. The brief call-backs from 1977 will elicit a “HOLY CRAP, THAT’S THEM!” and every detail is meticulously carried out so that as you watch, you can see the pieces being put together and realize: “THAT’S WHY THIS HAPPENS IN THE FIRST MOVIE! IT ALL MAKES SENSE!” Watching Rogue One is like enjoying your fancy Star Wars burger and then learning about all the love, blood, sweat, and tears that went into it. It’s really, really nice.
Special shout out to Jonathan Aris, who plays the same character in Rogue One as he does in Sherlock. Instead of an obnoxious, know-it-all detective with ugly hair, a scrubby beard, and an annoying voice, he’s an obnoxious, know-it-all Imperial commander with ugly hair, a scrubby beard, and an annoying voice. That’s his life now, poor guy.
My final review? It’s a hopeful, sad, and triumphant movie that made me leave with a smile. 7.5/10, less if you don’t like relish.