The first in the Star Wars Anthology series has finally hit the big screen, and after years of scrutiny and doubt, we can finally pass our own judgement.
This movie was great. There’s this review in four words. Here’s it in five: This movie was fucking great.
Prepare yourself for minor spoilers. No plot is given away, however those wishing to go in blind probably shouldn’t read this.
Rogue One is set just before the events of the first ever released Star Wars movie, and the fourth (maybe now fifth?) chronologically placed movie: A New Hope. At this point, the rebellion against the Empire is well underway and our usual hero, Luke Skywalker, is still off moping on his Uncle’s moisture farm on Tatooine. We follow Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K-2SO and a whole host of other complex characters in their quest to steal the plans of the first Death Star.
How does this hold up as a Star Wars film? Well, it’s not an Episode of our Skywalker family focused Star Wars series, indicated by the lack of scrolling text at the start. This feels odd, however it catapulted us straight into the action, giving us little time to process it’s absence. There’s seemingly no Wilhelm scream, and the famed ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ line is cut short, reminding us that whilst this is Star Wars, this isn’t the Star Wars we’ve grown accustomed to over the last 39 years.
Rogue One is a very natural addition to the universe, at times it felt like an extended episode of The Clone Wars– possibly my favourite Star Wars property. Many other cameos and callbacks to the main series, as well as the animated series (Saw Gerrara made his debut in The Clone Wars after all) are subtly integrated, especially with, as expected, Episode IV. Some do feel slightly forced, but not surprising. We can just groan and get on with the film. These didn’t bother me, I love a good cameo, but it has seemed to have bothered many other viewers.
Parts are awfully cliche, I won’t say where, but one scene was almost too much for me. But it wouldn’t be Star Wars without cliche- how many cliches have been birthed from this franchise? Maybe we can forgive these few cliches just this once, however it still ruined my immersion in the movie for a little bit.
The best integration of a previous concept was Darth Vader himself. Many worried this would become ‘Darth Vader: The Movie’, however his screen time is surprisingly short and utilised to the max. Vader was terrifying enough, no more time was needed. On the other hand, there’s something strange about seeing Vader in full HD as compared to the Original Trilogy. He kinda looked like a dude in Darth Vader cosplay, Star Wars cosplayers are known for being some of the best in the world after all. Maybe that’s just me, but it felt like that could have been anyone under that helmet.
That’s not to say the casting in this movie was anything subpar. Diego Luna as Cassian Andor is my personal standout, as well as Alan Tudyk as K-2SO. There isn’t a performance, or moment of acting I would criticise, whereas I could pinpoint weaker scenes in the other films. My only real ‘gripes’ would be some of the CGI not looking completely realistic, however there is no way possible that a better job could have been done. Otherwise I believe Mads Mikkelsen was not given a true opportunity to shine.
The music in this film is stellar, you don’t expect anything else from a Star Wars movie at this point. This is the first filmed to feature a soundtrack composed by someone other than John Williams. Much influence is taken from his previous wealth of Star Wars material, however it’s distinctly different. Yet another reminder that this isn’t the Star Wars we know already. I’d have preferred a John Williams score, but it’s still a fantastic soundtrack.
We see a greater part of an extremely large universe, this is always something I crave from a new Star Wars property, last year I was left slightly disappointed when a major chunk of The Force Awakens took place on yet another desert planet. Okay, we do see another desert planet in Rogue One, but a larger part takes place on a beach covered planet, something we’ve yet to be shown on screen! I hope we continue to see new and refreshing planets. Without giving anything away, I will say that we see a planet from a previous movie. It’s not explicitly stated, but it has been confirmed as that planet. You know the one.
A few months ago Disney ordered reshoots due to the film’s overall tone being too dark. I can’t imagine how dark the original cut must have been for this to pass as the ‘Disney friendly’ version. It’s a brutal war film, taking place during the midst of a Rebellion; a Rebellion that was failing before the Battle of Yavin. Of course it is going to be rough, but that doesn’t make watching it any easier.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, there’s no way you will leave the cinema disappointed. Maybe purists will dislike how much it blends into Episode IV, however it gives more context and weight to the whole story of the first Death Star, it will add to every repeat viewing of A New Hope. It wasn’t all Luke and friends who took that out and changed the tide of the war, other heroes fought bravely before their time.
If I were to rank the Star Wars films at this exact moment in time, I think it would be:
Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope
The Force Awakens
Return of the Jedi
Revenge of the Sith
Attack of the Clones
The Phantom Menace
However, I feel like between Empire and Revenge, the films could fit in any order. All 4 of those I love a very similar amount. I can see these moving around as I process Rogue One.
I’d give this film an easy 8.5/10, it bloody earned it. On IMDb the film is sitting pretty at an 8.3, and on Rotten Tomatoes it currently ranks at 85% from critics, and 89% from the audience.
In summary: go see this movie now.