Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

While I wasn’t keen on Disney and Lucasfilm approaching the prequel so quick in to the rebooting of the series, “Rogue One” really serves us one of the most important chapters in the fall of the Empire beautifully. While “Rogue One” certainly isn’t a perfect film, it sure is a fantastic action adventure that attempts to break the mold. Gareth Edwards transforms his tale of the stealing of the plans of the Death Star in to a last stand mission in the vein of “Saving Private Ryan” and “Inglorious Basterds.” Though director Edwards offers up the usual nods to “Episode IV: A New Hope,” thankfully “Rogue One” also manages to stand firmly on its own. It’s a compelling tale of the rebellion, and pure evil trying to maintain its strangle hold on the galaxy.

Felicity Jones is great as one of the last hopes for the rebel alliance after surviving a kidnapping by the empire as a young child. After her mother is murdered, her father is taken by the empire to continue to build for them the proposed super weapon known as the “Death Star.” Years later after being saved by rebel Saw Gerrera, Jyn is freed by rebels who want to use her knowledge to help track down her father, and secretly execute him before he completes the construction on the Death Star. Before long, their mission becomes a last effort to acquire the plans for the super weapon, and relinquish the last upper hand the Empire has on the rebellion. Director Edwards successfully conveys taut suspense, raising the stakes for his heroes and warriors the more harrowing the mission becomes.

Though most of the narrative indicates of the fate of our heroes, “Rogue One” is thankfully never a down beat or depressing action film. It instead leans heavily on the idea of hope, as it progresses naturally in to Episode IV aptly titled “A New Hope.” Though a lot of what occurs is a brutal war for the sake of the galaxy, most of the affair is fairly light hearted, and kept in a briskly paced sense of adventure. Jyn Erso is a captivating heroine carrying the baton for other rebel heroines in this mythology, while “Rogue One” also evokes some brand new heroes to get behind. “Rogue One” builds some brutally complex science fiction heroes, all of whom garner their own stakes in this battle, and have their own purpose. No one is wasted, from Alan Tudyk’s noble droid K-2SO, Jiang Wen as gun toting warrior Baze Malbus, right down to Donnie Yen who is immense as Chirrut Îmwe, a devout follower of the Force.

Yen is especially a scene stealer as an enigmatic blind warrior whose devotion to the properties of the force is an excellent precursor to Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Diego Luna, who more than holds his own among the seasoned cast as dashing Cassian Andor. While there are certainly many moments of martial arts and mentions of the force, “Rogue One” aims to be primarily an espionage and combat “Star Wars” film. Edwards relies a great deal star fighting sequences, and gun fights that consistently sweep us up in the moment. Edwards maintains the tone of the “Star Wars” mythos well while also injecting a firm military grade aesthetic. By this he contributes to the idea that this is a story that has never been told, but definitely warrants mention, mainly for setting the wheels in motion in “A New Hope.” Which is not to say that Edwards and co. don’t have a ball nodding to the original series.

There are a ton of outstanding (and crucial) cameos, as well as the insertion of legendary characters in to various points of the narrative, allowing for the movie to mix in to the mythology, and emphasizing how certain enemies twisted circumstances to their advantage. The CGI is absolutely stunning and the much discussed appearance by Darth Vader is thankfully not squandered for the sake of audience appeal. “Rogue One” is a unique and superb “Star Wars” adventure that successfully relays key events in the cinematic mythology, building its own world, and rousing heroes in the process. It’s a beautiful switch up of the norm for fans of the series.