SPOILER FREE PART
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way at the start.
If you ever wondered how the Rebel Alliance got the plans for the Death Star and how in the world did something that massive get built with such a weakness – Rogue One answers these questions. It’s a stand alone movie that acts as a prologue to the original Star Wars: A New Hope (1977).
Next, this isn’t your typical Star Wars movie. And the director wanted you to know this from the very beginning. Hence – no crawling introduction with the wonderful music of John Williams. We get new characters, new heroes, and a new feel to the franchise.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different. Unless of course, you fumble the opening 30 minutes of the film trying to show that it’s different.
Herein lies the biggest problem with Rogue One. And fans knew from the start this script had some issues. That’s the whole reason why Tony Gilroy (from the Bourne movies) was brought in. I can only imagine the mess he inherited.
The first 30 minutes of this film is slow, disjointed, hard to follow, and boring. There is nothing significantly added or necessary in the content either. There is no real tension in the story telling. No real drama. I even said to myself – ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this.’
Then… something happens once Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), and Alan Tudyk (K-2SO) all get on the screen. The chemistry is great between these three. The story finds its feet and the film kicks into high gear and delivers some incredible eye-candy and a couple of great surprises.
I’ll give away no spoilers in this section of the review. Suffice it to say that the back half of the film is so good, it makes you wonder why in the world was the first 30 minutes included in the final cut. There will be divided opinions on this film because of the sloppiness of the start of the film. But there will also be almost universal praise for how the film ends.
It’s worth a watch. It’s a good film. Not Empire Strikes Back level, not even The Force Awakens level. But Rogue One answers some important questions and sets up Star Wars perfectly. We are also given a villain that truly brings terror like we’ve never seen before in the Star Wars universe.
THE NOT SO SPOILER FREE PART
Full warning here – I’m going to unpack some spoilers here.
I felt like the film should have started with the rescue/escape of Jyn Erso. It’s the first time we get her and K-2SO on the screen and it’s magic. As far as why she was so important to the Rebellion, they could have run a flashback to her childhood seeing her dad abducted by the Empire to finish the Death Star.
From there go straight to the introduction of Saw Gerrera and the movie is off and running. In terms of setting up Cassian as more of an assassin than a spy, I don’t think the film would miss his one disjointed, unconnected scene at the start of the film.
The acting is very good. There are strong performances across the board starting with Forest Whitaker who we needed more of. Donnie Yen is outstanding. His character, his humor, his presence adds a layer to the film that would have severely been missed. Same can be said about Ben Mendelssohn’s portrayal of Orson Krennic.
But there is no question as to who steals the movie.
This is the Vader we have waited for. He is terrifying. This is the Vader that will keep grown men up at night. Rogue One shows why Vader is so feared. It also leaves you wanting more.
I imagine there will be mixed reviews on the film. That’s the shame of it all because the pieces are all there for this to have been the best one to date. We are left with a very good film – which on one hand we should be thankful for. But it’s pretty easy to see how much better it could have been.