Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) : An important movie in the new Star Wars franchise.


Jyn Erso, a Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. With help from the Rebels, a master swordsman, and non-allied forces, Jyn will be in for something bigger than she thinks.

We all know the story of Star Wars: A New Hope and its become a well known staple in cinema history. Rogue One disects this story and creates a prequel, based before the first Star Wars film. After last years The Force Awakens I was left feeling a bit confused by the direction of the franchise because  it was critically loved but I still found it too commercial and ‘Disneyfied’ to legitimately make me excited about the franchise. Then came the trailers for Rogue One and I must say, it didn’t impress me but I was looking forward to seeing Gareth Edwards taking over. Edwards returns after Godzilla, which was a film many didn’t enjoy but I loved its tone and I was hoping this tone would transfer over to Rogue One. We were promised a grittier, dirtier film and this was the tone Edwards was heading for but then came the dreading news of reshoots to ‘lighten’ the mood after the Batman v Superman disaster earlier this year. Now watching the film, I can totally see the lightened tones which ironically match the Star Wars nature but Rogue One was meant to be the first spin off that I hoped would take this dark story into a newer direction. This is a small nitpick but for me I found that the comedic elements of the film threw off the atmosphere Edwards and Greig Fraser tried to create with its cinematography.

The film prologue opens beautifully, we don’t get the usual Star Wars intro but the opening scene was tense and was one of my favourite scenes of the movie. It had a maturer ambience in its direction but sadly the entire film didn’t keep this tone. Straight away we are introduced to Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) who is a major character with not enough screen time. This becomes one of the films major flaws because many of its characters are left underdeveloped. Mikkelsen is a great actor and he fitted into the Star Wars universe perfectly but he was barely given any screen time. So little that his relationship with his daughter, which becomes the main arc of the story was under developed. The films opening prologue could have been an area that fleshed out more of Galen’s family relationship. Soon as the film begins we are introduced to our lead protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) who gives a great performance and carries the whole film. Soon as she is introduced on screen we are thrown into this Rebels vs Empire narrative. The film switches from planet to planet and on first viewing this can become a bit confusing as  you begin to remind yourself of the Star Wars Universe. You get transported to stunning locations and set pieces which reminds me why I fell in love with Star Wars in the first place. Its whole world and mythos, the cultures, characters and geographical elements each location inhabits. These scenes were brief but they still managed to grasp my attention, especially the stunning Beach location used in the films final scene. The film making was an important element that made Rogue One a ‘more’ unique film than the others. Greig Fraser brought in some interesting elements with his cinematography but I think in the battle scenes he lost his touch because he couldn’t display the claustrophia through the camera.  Most great war films such as Saving Private Ryan and Platoon portray the angst of the soldiers in battle through claustrophobic shots but this one felt too wide open. From a visual effects perspective, this is the best i’ve seen Star Wars look. I didn’t find the CGI looking animated or fake and even the digital holograms of old actors from the original trilogy looked amazing.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Death Star

Ph: Film Frame

©Lucasfilm LFLRogue One: A Star Wars Story

(Ben Mendelsohn)

Ph: Film Frame

©Lucasfilm LFL

John Williams unfortunately didn’t return for the score and instead we were given Michael Giacchino. Again like Fraser with the cinematography, new interesting elements were added but the tone couldn’t be sustained. Giacchino created a great score for the film full of loud drums and whispering violins but one aspect he couldn’t grasp was keeping the suspense. At times it almost felt like he was trying to recreate Williams famous score but it never reached those heights. I think the film could have done with a more experimental composer who would bring something more original to the story such as Johann Johannsson or Mica Levi. An original aspect of Rogue One was the fact that it showed as a new side of the empire, in their earlier days before they expanded to a larger scale.  We had two main villains in Rogue One (ignoring Peter Cushing’s digital resurrection), Krennic played by Ben Mendelsohn and the return of Darth Vader. Mendelsohn is a great actor i’ve enjoyed watching  him over the years and it was great to see him play a villain in such a big film. His role was good in retaining the mystery of  the empire and his scene with Darth Vader has been driving fans crazy. Personally, I wasn’t impressed with Darth Vader’s brief scenes but they did add to the mystery of his character and I loved the addition of his new castle on a volcanic, lava filled planet.  This all comes down to locations again, Edwards chose and created beautiful scenes in beautiful locations that added to the Star Wars universe. I fell in love with the films because of its themes of exploration and Rogue One improves this aspect of the narrative. Another interesting addition was the use of  so many characters on screen which also became the films greatest downfall. Outside of Felicity Jones lead we were given a team of characters who were great characters but were under developed. Forest Whitaker played the great rebel fighter Saw Gerrera and like Darth and Galen he had a great mystery around his character but he was also given barely any screen time. These three characters played into the mystery of the story so I understand why they weren’t given much screen-time. However,Chirrut, Base and Bodhi were great supporting characters in this film that had little to no development throughout. They seemed to be placed in the story for filler, but their performances and characters themselves had the chance to become an important part of the franchise. The other lead alongside Felicity Jones was Diego Luna as Cassion, who became for me a weak and annoying love interest for Felicity Jones. His performance brought down the film and I found his character to be the weakest in the plot even though he got a lot of screen time.

3045425-an1-ff-012Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Ph: Film Frame

©Lucasfilm LFL

Rogue One is a great addition to this new Star Wars Anthology and it improves over The Force Awakens. The film like many other Star Wars film’s plays a very simple A to B storyline. We basically follow Jyn on her journey to stop the Death Star whilst discovering her own identity. The film leads up to a great final battle that is beautifully done and becomes a great addition to the action spectacles we have seen from this franchise. Fraser did a great job with his cinematography but I felt like he couldn’t handle the action sequences. There wasn’t enough fear on the screen and my biggest problem was the lack of ‘force’ and lightsaber battles in the film. The infamous ‘reshoots’ are evident here, we have a grand war story with many dark themes but to remain ‘Disney’ friendly they lightened up the tone quite a bit. Gareth Edwards did a great job with the director and improved significantly on the mistakes he made with Godzilla. He added his own grittier style and although the film was lightened up it didn’t play it safe with on-screen deaths. Not many characters survive the onslaught in Rogue One and I think this early recreation of the Empire was reinforced with this idea that its a  war and not many people survive. However,  I can see that disney will interfere with production no matter what big name director is attached to the franchise. My biggest fear is that Star Wars will become like Marvel, a franchise that appeals to the masses but never really reaches the level of greatness Star Wars aspires to become.

Final Verdict – 8.0

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