By Marc S. Sanders
On my 4th viewing of this film, I second guessed myself over and over. I know I’m a Star Wars junkie, but can I truly give an objective opinion about Rogue One? I think I can.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is of one of the best films of the last ten years. Now there are conditions that accompany that observation. It’s difficult to follow its trajectory if you haven’t seen A New Hope (the intended follow up story; the original Star Wars film). Frankly, reader if you are watching this film without ever watching A New Hope, I’d imagine you’ve been on a deserted island with a volleyball for a friend, unaware of this pop culture geek-oriented phenomenon from a galaxy far, far away, and upon your return to civilization you were just randomly flipping the channels. So, let’s just go ahead and dismiss that parameter right now.
Disney is the only studio with enough resources and scrutiny to ensure a good product is developed in the franchise. Rogue One proves that theory. From the Rebel uniforms to the Stormtroopers, to the Yavin 4 set recreation, and even a harkening back to Darth Vader’s original 1977 appearance (red eyes in the helmet), director Gareth Edwards, Lucasfilm and Disney ensure consistency in its side chapter apart from the 9-part saga. You relish the familiarity of it all, and what’s new you welcome with appreciated enthusiasm. It all works within the long-established universe.
The cast is superb with major highlights from Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso (great name) as a brash no nonsense rogue in and of herself. Jones comes off with tough bravado reminiscent of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, as well as Jodie Foster. Nothing will intimidate her, though she will show her heart and soul for her father, the reluctant architect of the Empire’s Death Star played by Mads Mikkelson, an important character to the story but not much material for him to capitalize on.
Alan Tudyk is a marvelous voice actor here as the tall droid K2SO, with a personality combination of Chewbacca & C3PO. He’s honest, maybe a little to honest, but he’s also physically strong and a smart aleck. His tone is Anthony Daniels, but his delivery is snide and arrogant. He’s just so entertaining.
Ben Mendohlson plays Imperial Director Krennic as a frightening antagonist who embraces the terror of this super weapon he oversees. “Oh it’s beautiful,” he sighs and really believes he sees beauty as a planet gradually combusts under the laser blast emanating from the Death Star. He expects greatness from his accomplishments and Mendohlson is also good at surrendering to what he’s not permitted to celebrate thanks to a strong Darth Vader and welcome return of Grand Moff Tarkin, a beautifully recreated CGI of deceased actor Peter Cushing. Tarkin is important to the Krennic storyline and his insertion in the film is flawless.
The cast also boasts Donnie Yen. He’s a real crowd pleasing blind martial artist. Not a Jedi, yet arguably even more fun.
The planets are crowded and different. Scarif where the final battle takes place is draped in palm trees and ocean blue. Great because it’s daylight setting allows all the action to be seen. Nothing is blurred.
The story structure is phenomenal as it centers on a race to make contact with an Imperial pilot who has just defected and then on to Jyn’s father in order to prevent this new Death Star from going into operation. I especially salute its honest, uncompromising, but still necessary ending. You’ll get a lump in your throat, followed by an adrenaline shot of excitement in the last five minutes. The end is pure genius. One of the great cinematic endings. Absolutely absorbing.
I really appreciate the various demographics in the film as well. For a story about an unending and lived in galaxy everyone should look and sound different. So, we are treated to Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian, and English, and then you have the droids and fictional alien species.
If anything is shortchanged, it might stem from some of the actors’ dialects. Forrest Whitaker, Diego Luna and Riz Amed play primarily roles that at times are hard to comprehend, even in a fourth viewing. This is forgivable though. The story lends value to all of the players on screen.
So yes. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is sensational; the best of the 4 Disney produced films thus far. There’s weight to its story, and its characters on both sides. It moves at a fast pace of action, dialogue and runaway suspense. It will go down as one of the best installments in the vast franchise that’s thrived for over 40 years so far.