Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

Branching out from the main story has some success but also some problems

Let the Wars Begin

 

With the new era of Star Wars films and the plan to release one every year, we have come to our first spin-off story in the universe. Breaking away from the “Episode” story and tropes, Rogue One seeks to expand the Star Wars mythology through new tales and perspectives. It’s a big risk to break away from the traditional story and seek to make something new, and for the most part Rogue One succeeds in being a standalone Star Wars movie with its new batch of characters. But some of the investment take a while to build towards and there is an overuse of nostalgia instead of investment in characters which can make the film underwhelming.

Rogue One is set directly before the events of A New Hope, and aims to chronicle the events outlined in the opening crawl. When Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) learns of her father’s involvement with the Empire, she embarks on a journey to help her father and discover the power the Empire possesses. She joins with a group of other Rebels to investigate a new intergalactic space station and extract the plans to eventually destroy it and keep the Empire at bay.

Putting together a band of characters and sending them on an extremely consequential mission is not unlike another 2016 movie. With that, Rogue One at least tries to invest in its characters more and make you feel like they have something worth fighting for. The team dynamic of valiance is definitely there, but as individuals the characters lack a bit of insight and knowledge that makes them hard to connect to.

The most fully realized character is Jyn which the movie follows from beginning to end. We learn her tragic backstory and how she came to become involved with the Rebel Alliance. She is strong but unenthusiastic at times. This is a much darker Star Wars film than the rest, and it definitely shows in Jyn’s character. She rarely smiles and seems to be there just to get the job done. Granted, she is there for other reasons but it’s hard to fully connect with her as she’s put up a wall making her a bit hard to invest in. She is likable at times, but it doesn’t carry through the entire movie.

The other characters are not as fully realized as Jyn, but there is some degree of likability with them. Cassian has been a part of the war for several years and you can see how this has influenced his skills when in the fraught of making tough decisions. Bodhi has defected from the empire and is trying to find something new to fight for. Chiruit and Baze are the two characters that are probably the most interesting as you can tell there is a history with them that is itching to be explored. Chiruit’s knowledge of the Force also proves interesting that allows the movie to expand the universe in small ways. However the standout character goes to the droid K2-SO, a sarcastic and blunt droid who easily has some of the movie’s best lines.

The plot is simple with the team needing to get the Death Star plans, but this is more about the journey to get there. The journey they take has some interesting moments and dramatic tension but it is all building towards its epic conclusion. The last 45 minutes is where the true core of the movie resides, but everything leading up to that is not entirely interesting. Other than Jyn, it’s hard to invest in the characters as individuals even though their team dynamic is one we are supposed to be rooting for. Don’t get me wrong, I was rooting for this band of heroes to win but I should be equally invested in the team as I am in the members that comprise it.

Because the characters lack some depth, the first two acts of the movie were not as interesting. Upon multiple viewings, I am just waiting for the last 45 minutes when all out war emerges and I can truly enjoy the tense and exciting action. I am not that interested with these band of characters as I was when I first saw Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren. This hurts the movie greatly with its lack of character development.

But like I said, those last 45 minutes are where the movie truly shines. The action is exciting and tense and upon the first viewing of the movie, even though I was not truly invested in the characters, I was fearing about whether or not everyone would make it to safety. It’s all out war with real stakes and accountability leaving you immersed in the plight of the rebels. It truly puts the “war” in Star Wars featuring one of the series best battle sequences. In the end, this segment redeems the investment you put into the other parts of the movie making this a fun and exciting adventure.

There is an argument to be made that there is a point to the characters not having a lot of backstory since this is a standalone story. But even the greatest movies that don’t have anything following or preceding it have interesting characters so I can not give Rogue One a pass on the character front. But the action is exciting enough to leave me entertained and there are plenty of cool easter eggs and moments that will easily excite Star Wars fans. Jyn and K2-SO are the most memorable characters with the rest feeling a bit underwhelming. Overall, this is a decent addition to the expanding Star Wars universe and I am excited for more standalone adventures. I can give a small pass now for some mistakes, but I hope there are improvements when the next “Star Wars Story” releases.

7.8/10 Good

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