*generic spoiler warning*
If you don’t know these words by heart you should at least know where they are from:
“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.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the premise for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I imagined a group of professional spies who have been doing this rebellion thing for a while, breaking in somewhere, shooting stormtroopers to collect a set of data files, while the Rebel fleet is keeping the empire occupied elsewhere in the galaxy. I never DREAMED that that first battle was because of the Death Star plans, but I guess neither did the Empire.
So what did we get? A group of misfits—a Rebel captain, an angsty young female, a blind guy, a macho, a nervous wreck of an Imperial deserter, and a droid saltier than the new salt shaker I got yesterday—take off from Yavin 4 against the wishes of Rebel leaders to sneak into a heavily guarded imperial base and start a diversion while three of them—the girl, the droid, and the captain—sneak into a data storage chamber to get the files. The message is sent by the skin of their teeth. The battle is hardly a victory. All of the main characters and most of the rebels who came with them either die in battle or are destroyed by a partial blast from the very weapon they came to destroy—an irony my English major brain is having a field day with.
Is Rogue One a Rogue Film?
Does Rogue One work as a stand-alone Star Wars film? Yes and no. It starts out as a solo film but we are definitely supposed to view it as a story that makes a major impact on the saga. I mean, if we’re stealing the Death Star plans which was the impetus for the action in A New Hope then of course it’s supposed to. But with the amount of screentime we got with Darth Vader and Princess Leia I worry that Rogue One can’t stand on its own. In the beginning we don’t get an opening crawl, but we start in space and jump right into the opening scene, which is a typical saga trope. We do have substantially more flashbacks than we did in The Force Awakens. It is a darker film than anything we’ve seen in Star Wars before, but it isn’t that much darker than The Force Awakens. I’d still say Revenge of the Sith was a twinge darker. The music score gets close to the original movie themes but doesn’t borrow from them directly much. But the ending cuts to the John Williams theme music that the saga films used, whereas I was hoping for the score music or maybe even a song under the credits. It doesn’t really do enough to break away, in my opinion. But I’m still creating a separate Pinterest board for Rogue One (where I am getting the pictures for this from, bu the way).
The fan service wasn’t as obvious as in The Force Awakens, partly because this is set before A New Hope so they are expected to mesh perfectly. In fact, there were a couple of moments I really liked with Cassian Andor shutting down the grouchy Cantina patrons (what were the odds, really?) and telling K-2S0 to shut up when he starts to say “I have a bad feeling.” I really liked the treatment we got for Mon Mothma and Bail Organa and the Rebel Alliance staff—that was what we needed to see. My one peeve with Bail is that he shows up during Mothma’s interview with Jyn and doesn’t say anything. He just stands there. He didn’t really need to be in that scene. But, during the war room scene and after, his character fit really well. It was just neat to see Bail Organa onscreen again.
The best performance for a classic Star Wars character I would definitely say was Tarkin. The CGI was much less obvious than it was for Leia. And Darth Vader, of course, was everything Darth Vader needed to be.
But the hidden gem of this film is definitely the watchtower guy on Yavin. That was a nice touch.
The Rebel Alliance’s Crack Team
For me, as much as I wanted something more fresh and original from Lucasfilm there was still certain criteria that Rogue One needed to meet for me to consider it a Star Wars film. The most important: a group of people who literally just met each other go to save the galaxy.
I don’t necessarily like Jyn Erso but I enjoy her character. The backstory at the beginning helped me to see what she’d been through. When we see her as an adult, she’s angry and doesn’t want to help anyone or be helped by anyone. However, her perspective changes when she realizes that her father needs her help to destroy the monstrous weapon that he created. That’s when Cassian Andor’s statement about hope hits home for her. Out of context, her speech to the council that we see in the trailers seems cheesy. But Jyn realizes that hope is all they have to go on. The Empire will stop at nothing to win, and they need every opportunity to stop them, even if it’s impossible. I just feel really bad that she didn’t get a real reunion with her father. Galen Erso seemed like a down-to-earth guy, even for a scientific genius.
Director Krennic is kind of a lackluster villain, considering that he has to share screen time with the likes of Vader and Tarkin. But the backstory makes it clear that Krennic is no one to mess with. He is brutal and ambitious and sick—and very attached to the Death Star as his pet project. Moreover, his personal squad of Death Troopers is nothing to sneeze at.
My favorite character? Bodhi Rook. Do not underestimate his importance: he got the word to Saw Gererra and the Alliance about Galen Erso wanting to share his secret about the Death Star. He had to overcome a lot of fear and anxiety about deciding to leave the Empire, and he did it beautifully. Also, his goggles and ponytail are adorable.
Cassian Andor is also a stud and he does deserve at least some of the adulation he gets from the fangirls. Seriously, he is what I look for in a man. He is loyal to the Rebellion but also willing to do what’s right. The first time he “died” was actually very saddening, but it was so satisfying to see him come back from that to shoot Krennic. Soooooo satisfying.
Chirrut Imwe came across to me as a bit annoying, but he was willing to give Jyn the benefit of a doubt, so I’ll give him that. You can also count on me muttering “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” under my breath when I get nervous from now on. I didn’t find Baze Malbus that interesting. K-2S0 was a lot of fun. His humor was not so much intentional as he is just being honest and REAL when no one needed him to be. I died inside every time a character died, but his death was the worst.
Rogue One has a lot going for it. It is a much better film than The Force Awakens (though I still like TFA better). There were plenty of moments where I connected to this film on a personal level, and it did appropriate service to the Prequels with the inclusion of Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. It works as a stand-alone film because the protagonists aren’t tied to the Skywalker family. However, I think Lucasfilm has a long way to go before they come up with an anthology film that doesn’t give me the vibe that they are still trying to rewrite the Original Trilogy without actually remaking it just because they can. Rogue One gets close, but doesn’t quite hit the mark. It contributes to the saga but doesn’t quite stand on its own, and it’s a little too stuck in the world of A New Hope to expand on the Star Wars universe as a whole—we get more of the Empire and the Rebellion, sure, but that’s not what I wanted to see.
All that being said, the dangers and sacrifices we see in Rogue One make you wonder if Luke, Han, and Leia were aware of just how much those Death Star plans cost to get.