It’s been a year since Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released and in that time it seems to have established faith in the franchise once again. Whilst the 2015 blockbuster wasn’t perfect and blatantly borrowed plot points from A New Hope, it was a great palette cleanser to the Prequel Trilogy.
And so, onto Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s safe to say that Rogue One continues to establish and reaffirm that the Star Wars franchise is not going to disappoint. It is the first of what will be a series of standalone stories set in the Star Wars universe, separate from the anthology series. However, where some things seem familiar to past films and carry the same trends, there are also striking differences. It’s clear that this is done intentionally to separate the standalone from the anthology films. Particularly for the opening sequence absent of the iconic rolling yellow text, as this sets the tone for the rest of film and serves as a warning: This is the Star Wars that you know, but not the Star Wars you’re familiar with.
Set just before A New Hope, the story follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her struggle to retrieve design plans for the Empires ultimate weapon of mass destruction, The Death Star. There’s the usual Shakespearian family issues that have become a common plot thread in any Star Wars film and the assembled rag-tag team that comes together to try and save the day.
So, is it any good? Yes. Is it the best Star Wars film as some critics have been stating? No, and here’s why.
The plot is tight and the pace is fast, especially within the first twenty minutes. I lost count of how many new planets we are introduced to within this time alone. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it does mean we are introduced to characters very quickly with little time to get know them. The anthology series can take the time to introduce characters to the audience because their stories are told across multiple films. This isn’t the case with Rogue One, due to it being a standalone film, you need to pay attention.
I found myself interested in the character’s journey more than the characters themselves because if I’m honest, I didn’t feel any connection to them. This is a far cry from the original trilogy and The Force Awakens. With these films,f I was invested in the characters through the dialogue and interaction with other characters. They cared for one another. Dialogue, whether its humorous or not, should be used to create interaction and chemistry. In Rogue One the dialogue delivers very little chemistry and not much in the way of the humour and one-liners that we have become accustomed to in a Star Wars film. As a result this leaves the characters feeling sterile and distant. I simply didn’t want to get to know them.
That said, this Star Wars film took me out of my comfort zone. It’s taking away the safety blanket that I used to wrap myself up in as I watched the original trilogy when I was a child, and handing me a beer telling me to grow up. It’s gritty and contains very few light-hearted moments throughout.
The epic battles between X-Wings and Tie-Fighters (as well as a few new model additions) are included, as are the blaster sound effects. The sets and new planets help to expand the Star Wars universe even further. As I watched Rogue One I had to remind myself that the change in tone was something the film was always aiming for.
Throughout there are nostalgic references to the original films. Some are integral to the plot and serve to drive the film forward or simply as an ode to the Star Wars fan base, but not to the point where they feel forced or included simply to keep fans happy.
The films score deviates from the original more than any other film in the franchise which helps to reinforce that Rogue One is something familiar yet different.
Overall Rogue One is a more mature entry for the franchise and may disappoint some younger fans hoping to see the new BB8 style character. However, it’s Star Wars……and who doesn’t love Star Wars right?!