In a word: Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. That’s how I’d describe the total package that is “Rogue One,” Disney’s latest edition to the Star Wars universe. It didn’t seem that way at points in the middle, but by the end, the final product was ironed out and a genuine pleasure.
The first of the stand-alone Star Wars films independent from the current ongoing trilogy, “Rogue One” is essentially the prequel to Star Wars Episode IV in which its plot revolves around the Death Star plans that Darth Vader is searching for when we first were introduced to Star Wars 39 years ago.
A genius creative move quite frankly. Kudos to whomever it was that realized probably after watching Episode IV for ideas that “Hey, how did Leia get the plans to the Death Star? Why that can be a whole story right there,” and it was.
The story, created by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, revolves around Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) a young tough beautiful girl who lost her family 15 years ago and her last name is what chains her to the course of events because her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is the pacifist savant engineer who is coerced into building the “Planet Killer” known by fans as the Death Star.
After being rescued by the Alliance, Jyn, in a deal for her freedom, joins covert and crafty intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and wisecracking loose-tongue reprogrammed Imperial Droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) go to Jedha. Their objective is to meet Saw Guerrera (Forest Whitaker), the leader of the extremist rebels and Jyn’s essential adoptive parent since she was a young girl and hopefully reunite the entire rebel cause. Joining along the way are blind force-sensitive Guardian of the Whills Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), his good friend the mercenary warrior Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and former Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) who defects to the Alliance cause.
A twist appears and we find that Jyn’s father Galen is still alive and under the thumb of the egomaniacal sociopathic Orson Krennic, the Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military and the man responsible for the loss of Jyn’s peaceful childhood. Now, the chance to save her father, get her life back and destroy the Death Star becomes Jyn’s objectives for her father has created a tiny yet gigantic flaw in the Death Star that is the key to the destruction of the superweapon.
Action packed and amazing CGI brings Cushing essentially back to life as Grand Moff Tarkin, along with unused footage from the original Star Wars making wonderful cameos polishes and adds an additional shine to this epic masterpiece. “Rogue One” is heavy on a reality that most of the Star Wars films ignore beyond some of the original trilogies. Star Wars is not only fantasy and science fiction, but it is a saga about a war where the protagonists are the underdogs.
It isn’t glamorous or something to be taken lightly. While the other movies show rebel casualties, even show a few primary characters dying, they never show the death of anyone truly significant unless they are in the role of an elder who has “lived a long life and fought the good fight” type of character. In “Rogue One,” without giving any spoilers, we see the true cost of war, the true amount of sacrifice that soldiers go through minus the distraction of superficial western themed lightsaber duels.
“Rogue One” comes across somewhat, though possibly unintentionally, as an anti-war movie and for this critic, it succeeds at creating a dissuading message the way the 1970 “Patton” featuring George C. Scott did where it shows the emotion, the raw adrenaline, and the honor that fighting for a cause presents, but also the immense pain, the high level of loss that accompany the darkness of battle, and the psychological tolls it takes on the participants. Young children or teenagers will not understand nor truly appreciate “Rogue One” most likely, but I think any adult or serviceman/woman will recognize and appreciate the gravity of what the movie presents which is what war is truly about. Hope, risk, loss, and making sure the cause survives even if it means your own individual life is forfeited.
“Rogue One” has relatively few flaws. A corny unneeded speech here and there, one or two too quick dramatic scenes and it could use a small break in between to help with pacing and timing of the movie, but these things do not deduct enough from the movie to make it feel hollow or inauthentic. Even if it’s only one movie of script time, there’s enough of magical Disney touch that connects us to the characters. The emotional buildup is there, the humor is there, the sacrifice is there, the conflict is there, the light and darkness clashing for control are there, and the beauty, the absolute beauty is there.
Go see “Rogue One,” you won’t regret it.