"During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armoured space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”Those words are part of the opening crawl for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Those words are essentially Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
A strong and very enjoyable movie throughout, Rogue One is solidly directed and very well written. Although we already know which side will ultimately end up succeeding, Rogue One does still does have it’s own narrative, and as such a beginning, middle and end is presented. So unlike the Star Wars prequels you don't feel like this film is just setting up a franchise, instead it holds its own as a strong and successful front runner of the spin-off movies.
Rogue One is really a war movie with added Star Wars goodness. Greig Fraser's cinematography is excellent, appearing quite cold for a lot of the film which adds to its grittier tone. Like The Force Awakens, it strikes a good balance between the new and the old, and in some cases it's better handled here. There are some great winks and nods to the franchise which are all enjoyable and mostly well handled.
However, whilst enjoyable throughout I do think 10 minutes or so could have been shaved off the running time as it did feel to be a bit too drawn out in places. It's true The Force Awakens is a few minutes longer but that was the right length for that story and it never felt like it was overstaying its welcome, here the film drags once or twice.
The characters are very good for the most part. Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso is great and definitely the most fleshed out of them all. Her performance is excellent and she shows herself to be a very capable actor in both the performance of her lines and the subtleties in her facial expressions.
Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe is a very intriguing character and has one the best and funniest lines in the movie which I wont spoil. Alan Tudyk as K-2SO is also very good and quickly became one of my favourite droids. He injects the perfect amount of humour in what is an otherwise fairly serious movie (in his delivery he actually reminds me of Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave of 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'). As for the other characters I felt something was lacking. Further development of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) would have been nice, and overall it seemed the whole ensemble didn't gel quite as well as they could have.
Darth Vader’s inclusion was absolutely perfect. He was in it for just the right amount of time. Any longer and I don't think it would have worked, no matter how awesome any additional scenes might've been. He has two 'entrances' in the film, both of which are stellar and prove him to be both a very menacing and incredibly powerful villain, and after a great one liner, quite a sassy one too. Ben Mendelsohn as Krennic also proves to be a great and very enjoyable villain.
Michael Giacchino's score is fantastic. I adored the fanfare when the title appeared on the screen after the Inglourious Basterds-esque prologue. Giacchino channels John Williams perfectly and keeps it, on the whole, pretty familiar whilst adding his own flourish to it. I love Giacchino's work in general but after realising his Doctor Strange theme was pretty much a reworking of his Star Trek theme and learning that he only had 4 weeks to produce this score I was a bit worried, but fortunately it's perfect.
As ever with Star Wars (although maybe not the prequels) the visuals are stunning. Each planet we visit has its own wondrous design and, visually, it feels in keeping with the original trilogy. The CGI-plus-Guy-Henry Grand Moff Tarkin (originally played by the late Peter Cushing) was very well realised. As expected with things like this, some shots of the character do feel a little out of place but in the scenes where he only says a few words or even none at all, it looks excellent. Especially when we first see him in a reflection. Despite some of its drawbacks it's brilliantly done, and looks even better than Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens.
After now seeing Disney's first two Star Wars releases, ultimately, of the two, I think I prefer The Force Awakens. That's possibly because I am more invested in the characters of the main saga, but what we have with Rogue One is a very strong and enjoyable entry into the franchise, one with a darker and grittier war movie aesthetic and feel to it, and one which isn't focused too much on crowd pleasing in the way that The Force Awakens was. Rogue One set out to pave the way for more standalone films set in the Star Wars universe, the evidence presented suggests a very strong future ahead for the series.
Oh and the ending..... that was perfect!
I give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 4 out of 5. It's a great film, if a little too long and lacking some characterisation.
Nick is a 2000 year old alien who travels through time and space, saving the good and conquering the evil... or so he likes to think.