Runtime: 2 Hr 13 Min
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Ben Mendelsohn (Director Orson Krennic), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso), Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Riz Ahmed (Bohdi Rook), Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus), Forrest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera)
WARNING! MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Rogue One A Star Wars Story is the 8th feature film in the long running Sci-fi franchise and the first in line of the "Stand Alone" films anounced by Disney after their acquisition of Lucasfilm back in 2012. In case you've been really sheltered and have no idea what i'm talking about, here's a quick primer...
...Oct. 2012 the Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm (including all of its subsidiary companies like Skywalker Sound and Industrial Light and Magic) from George Lucas for 4.05 BILLION dollars giving them full creative control over perhaps the worlds most beloved science fiction franchise of all time (sorry Trek lovers, but its true).
In conjunction with the company's aquisition, producer Kathleen Kennedy (who co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg and has too many film credits, and awards to list) was made president of Lucasfilm. At the same time Disney announced a new trilogy in what has now become known as the Skywalker Saga or what I call the "main narrative".
That trilogy debuted last year with Episode 7 The Force Awakens and will continue next year with Episode 8 (Subtitle yet to be announced but there's at least three rumoured working titles out there right now). If that wasn't enough! The folks over at Disney want you (and me and everyone else out there) to have a big ol' heaping helping of Star Wars every year for the foreseeable future in the form of stand alone anthology films in the odd years where there is no Star Wars episode in the main narrative. Two of these films are the upcoming young Han Solo film starring Alden Ehrenich (Hail Caesar, Tetro) in the title role, and Donald Glover (The Martian, The Lazarus effect) as Lando Calrissian as well as a rumoured Boba Fett project, but the word is still out on that one.
And that brings us back to the first of those Anthology films! Rogue One opens in wide release today! Not being satisfied with going to see it on opening night the boss and I were glued to our smart phones the day advance tickets went on sale back in November and we were lucky enough to get some great seats for last night's 7pm advance screening!
When Rogue One kicks off it does so with virtually none of the fanfare that previous installments have. No opening crawl, and no bombastic John Williams score. Even the traditional downward panning shot used in every opening sequence is replaced with an upward pan. Just a few of the many ways the film sets itself apart from its predecessors. Yes folks, this isn't your daddy's Star Wars!
When former Imperial Scientist Galen Erso is compelled back into service by Imperial Director Krennic to complete the Death Star it's up to a rag tag cast of rogues (all pun intended) led by Galen's daughter Jyn to set things right for the fledgling rebellion.
The film moves along with very deliberate pacing wasting no time in assembling the rogues, and each member of the team has just enough backstory (although it is implied for certain characters more than it is for others) to make you care about them.
It's clear that rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor is a man who has had to make very tough decisions in the course of his duties, although there are a couple of scenes that make it easy to imagine that many of those choices have weighed heavily on his conscience.
Jyn Erso is a streetwise tough plagued by the memory of being ripped from her family at a young age. Raised and trained as a soldier by the militant Rebel Saw Gerrera until he abandoned her at age 16, Jyn has wandered the galaxy under more than one alias.
Bodhi Rook is the Imperial Transport pilot hand selected by Galen to carry a message to Saw about the trap he secretly built into the Deathstar. Bodhi has perhaps the weakest backstory of all the Rogues, but I applaud the idea that the truth surrounding the weapon and the empire was enough to compel him to "do the right thing". He above anyone else in the film is the blue collar "every man".
Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus are two of the last remaining temple guards in Jedha City (like the Mecca for Jedi). These two are like 2 sides of the same coin. While Chirrut is pious and devout in his belief in the force, Baze is cynical and tempered by the reality that the jedi are all but extinct. This is reflected in both their combat styles and their dialogue.
K-2SO is a re programmed imperial security droid who not only serves as comedic relief in the film (think Dave Bautista's Drax in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy) but also a compelling example of the "human condition" at its finest. K-2SO's pragmatism is peppered throughout the film and is the source of many genuine laugh out loud moments. But it is his ability to rise above his programming ( a staple of all "named" Star Wars droids ) that makes his character evolution memorable.
Rogue one borrows heavily on the Vietnam style war picture and put the "Wars" in Star Wars better than any previous installment. Both the ground and space combat sequences are nail biting thrill rides. Like the sequence in Return of the Jedi that sees the Millennium falcon spin and twist through the deluge of Tie fighters, the space combat in Rogue One is so dense with ships that you'd be hard pressed to see everything in any given shot.
There is so much Star Wars love packed into this film it's easy to see how much care was taken by the director and the writers. The number of Easter eggs in this movie is head spinning! From dialogue points that reference early script drafts of Star Wars 1977, references to characters and events of the clone wars, to star ships from the Star Wars Rebels animated series. It's all woven in here seamlessly. And if that wasn't enough, the creative editing and reuse of footage from Star Wars 1977 will put a smile on your face like a kid in a candy store.
Because Rogue one serves two fold as both a stand alone anthology film and a prequel to A New Hope the number of familiar faces that weave in and out of this film serves as icing on the cake, even if the digital effects used to create some of them isn't necessarily up to intense scrutiny. Despite that, their inclusion in the film is awesome and I for one am thrilled that a character who's actor is long since deceased had a significant supporting role!
One thing to note here is the inclusion of Darth Vader. His screen time is sparse but used to great effect and I must say that the voice work from James Earl Jones is easily on Par with any of the dialogue from the original trilogy. This is Darth Vader at the height of his reign as Dark Lord of the Sith and when he acts....he is THE Darth Vader you always wanted to see in action. Awesomely terrifying.
Rogue One is dark, thematically speaking. Like The Empire Strikes Back Dark! It's especially evident throughout the third act and there's no happy ending to be had here. But what is there is a concise encapsulation of everything that is Rogue One in a nice neat package that serves as a great "jump off" point to revisit A New Hope.
Rogue One is powerful both thematically and visually and is a sure fire hit on every level. The story is compelling and the emotional highs and lows resonate. If you plan on seeing this film, see it in theaters because there's just too much Star Wars in it to fit comfortably in your living room!
Rogue One A Star Wars Story gets 9.5 Kaiburr Crystals out of 10.
Until next time...
...that's a wrap!