Film Review: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’: An action-packed blockbuster that’s out of this galaxy

Lauren Sieberg, Staff Writer

Many fans of the successful “Star Wars” franchise have always adored the rebels who played significant roles in previous films, such as Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker, and many others. Because these rebels were able to find special places in the hearts of fans all across the globe, these people have hoped for more rebels they can admire in the future. In the newest addition to the franchise entitled “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” director Gareth Edwards introduces the audience to new, inspiring, and lovable rebels from a galaxy far, far away.

In the beginning, the audience visits the ringed planet Lah’mu, where the Erso family lives hidden away from the evil and highly controlling Empire. Unfortunately, their peaceful agricultural lifestyle is interrupted when the Imperial Lieutenant Commander Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) arrives, intending to abduct Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and force him to complete the Death Star. In their defiance, Galen’s wife is killed by an Imperial trooper, but their daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones) escapes and is ultimately rescued by rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), an old family friend.

The film then jumps forward fifteen years to a time when the rebellion is still scrambling for a method of defeating the Empire. A cargo pilot known as Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) who had previously deserted the Empire delivers a top secret hologram from Galen to Saw, containing information regarding a design flaw in the Death Star that Galen had intentionally devised. Soon after, an intelligence officer named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) – along with his sassy, humorous robot companion K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) – discovers Jyn as she is being escorted to an Imperial labor camp, and whisks her away to the rebel hideout.

Cassian, Jyn, and K-2SO then travel to the desert moon Jedha to find Saw, Bodhi, and the hologram. While there, they join forces with the blind force-sensitive warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and his comrade and mercenary Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). When the group is captured and taken to Saw’s rebel extremist base, Jyn confronts him and watches her father’s hologram. While the group is in Jedha, the Death Star targets the moon as a test run that both demonstrates the weapon’s violence and the Empire’s power. The group quickly leaves the desert moon (and Saw) behind without anyone but Jyn seeing or hearing the message.

Since Cassian believes that the Alliance Council will not put much stock in Jyn’s integrity as the daughter of an Imperial scientist, they decide to travel to the rainy planet Eadu, a territory under the Empire’s control where Galen is said to be working. Jyn is reunited with her father after the base is bombed by a rebel squadron, but he dies only moments later. After grudgingly agreeing to put their faith in Jyn’s honesty about the message’s contents, the group begins their trip back to the rebel headquarters to share the information about the Death Star with the council. As predicted, the Alliance Council is unable to make a unanimous decision based on Jyn’s credibility, but the small band refuses to take no for an answer. The team gathers up several rebel soldiers, all of whom are willing to fight in order to ensure that their past actions weren’t for naught. Together, they take off on their stolen ship (which Bodhi cleverly nicknames “Rogue One”) for the tropical planet Scarif, in hopes of retrieving the Death Star schematics on their own.

The audience is constantly met with back-to-back, action-packed scenes, which can feel realistic but also overwhelming. Unfortunately, these scenes may cause the audience to feel that a well-formulated plot and significant details have been partially replaced by action clips. Each of these remarkable scenes does manage to expose multiple characters’ strengths and weaknesses, but too much of a good thing can be obnoxious and boring.

However, given that the film takes place during a time when countless rebels struggle against a powerful and wicked regime, this can be accepted, albeit halfheartedly. Though it seems logical for there to be plenty of skirmishes during the war, the storyline still feels as though some key details and introductions could have been easily improved. For example, after fifteen years are skipped in the film, numerous characters and planets are quickly introduced to the audience, and remembering all these new names and faces feels like a test of memorization rather than character introductions.

All of the special effects in “Rogue One” are absolutely stellar, and can be appreciated by old and new fans of the franchise. My experience seeing “Rogue One” involved taking a couple of my family members to the movie theatre a few days after Christmas, my dad (long-time “Star Wars” fan) being one of them. Since he was lucky enough to see “A New Hope” in theatres in 1977, he was able to compare both experiences after the film, including the effects. One of the visuals he repeatedly referred to was the CGI (computer-generated imagery) used to create unbelievably accurate models of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. The elaborate details, including the folds in their clothing, each hair on their heads, and their unique facial expressions aren’t exactly perfect, but are nonetheless extraordinary. Seeing my dad so fascinated and delighted by these special effects stood out to me as a mark of how much the field (and the franchise by extension) has improved and developed over the years. Recreating the likenesses of these two deceased actors certainly stands out as a magnificent step forward for digital creators everywhere.

Although the CGI characters are exceptional, the real actors are even more incredible, due to their wonderful diversity and heartfelt emotions. Unlike previous “Star Wars” films that lack proper representation for people of various races, disabilities, and genders, “Rogue One” introduces an incredibly diverse group of characters, ranging from a blind warrior, an empowering female protagonist, and numerous strong individuals representing a number of ethnic backgrounds.

The actors themselves come from several different religious, ethnic, and financial backgrounds, helping provide representation for those who may feel underrepresented in today’s society. But these actors are not in the film to stand around just for this purpose; their astounding acting talents help reveal the emotionally taxing side of a rebellion and enhance the audience’s attachment to their characters. When Jyn sees her father’s hologram, she breaks down in tears at her father’s words in a heart–wrenching performance by Felicity Jones. Later on, Cassian shares his tragic tale of how he was yanked into the rebellion as a child. The audience can understand their melancholy in these brief moments as if they are their own emotions.

Even though not much can be said about the ending of “Rogue One” without narrowly avoiding major spoilers, the manner in which the film concludes is phenomenal. While some aspects of the ending may be emotional for the audience, the decision to go through with this specific ending is definitely logical. The film conveniently ends right where “A New Hope” picks up, prompting fans to continue with the experience by watching the fourth (now fifth) film. Audience members may want to bring a few tissues with them to the theatres, because these final scenes are fairly emotional.

Although “Rogue One” falls short of being the best movie in the galaxy, new and old “Star Wars” fans shouldn’t lose hope in the innumerable spectacular aspects of the film, from the characters to the CGI to the ending. This newest installment to the “Star Wars” franchise has earned its spot beside the others, and is absolutely worth seeing.

Grade: A
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Rated: PG-13
Length: 133 minutes
Genre: Science Fiction/Action
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen