Rogue One comes off the heels of the highly successful Episode 7 that we were graced with last year. Though Episode 7 is a solid and enjoyable movie the protruding faults were noticeable. Parallels between The Force Awakens and A New Hope are staggering and often take away from the appeal of Episode 7. So where does Rogue One fit in with all the Star Wars movies? Succumbing to a fate similar to the prequels, hitting the highs of the original trilogy, or the nostalgia beats of Episode 7? Rogue One respects the Star Wars history while injecting new life into the series without relying on nostalgia or recall to other films. It’s an excellent addition to the Star Wars films and is certainly better than Episode 7.
The Force Awakens was a ruse in content. Hitting familiar beats of the original trilogy helped keep the audience happy, but upon multiple viewing the quality of the film diminishes. Han Solo is written to perfection but callbacks to the Millennium Falcon and a charred Darth Vader helmet are just a little too blatant. Rogue One rewards the fans of these movies with subtle strikes of characters and moments from A New Hope. Some of these references will only ruminate with the most hardcore fans, but general cameos and knowledge work with the story to make these moments organic and free-flowing.
Obviously, story is a massive component to this movie. If this or any future Star Wars movie hits any beats that are near similar to other efforts in the saga, there will be some uproar. Thankfully we get strong characters like Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, who are just there to fill the Han Solo/badass smuggler role. However these characters (the entire cast all have some great moments) are unique and have a history that alluded to making them far more intricate than characters from the prequels or The Force Awakens (TFA). The villain is a compelling one that has urgency to matters. The movie feels urgent and expertly crafts itself into the ideal transition into the beginning of A New Hope.
I greatly enjoyed the story for Rogue One. Emotional moments were meaningful, there’s an excellent monologue from Mads Mikkelsen I’m referring to in particular. The film starts out with a jagged and darker tone. The rebellion isn’t always a great group of people, they play dirty, there are extremists, but the empire is usually a more opposing force. We tie in the plotlines of a distressed daughter, a vindictive director, and a rebellion built on hope and scrambled by fear. This comes to form a truly special story that backs up the entirety of A New Hope with great logic and just helps build the Star Wars universe.
The movie also feels more like Star Wars than TFA does. A masterful score composed by Michael Giacchino weaves throughout appropriate moments. Giacchino did a better job at being John Williams than Williams did with TFA. The score is original, has bursts of nostalgia, but sticks to its own themes with sounds we would associate to Star Wars. It’s also visually incredible.
Director, Gareth Edwards, helmed 2014’s Godzilla where he proved he knew size, scale, and expectation. He continues this with some excellent moments throughout and a few particular shots that stunned me. His filming of the worlds, battles, and dialogue in the Star Wars universe impressed me so much that I’d be more than happy to see him tackle future Star Wars films. The Death Star’s presence is looming, threatening, and massive. AT-AT Walkers thump and impose upon those foolish enough to stand-up to them. A few particular characters are mastered through the lens and direction of Edwards. He has done a phenomenal job.
Rogue One isn’t a perfect movie. Often with some plot-convenient moments and some questionable character motives, the film often leaves you scratching your head. Also it’s a longer movie, when the action and emotion are in gear it’s at the top of its game. However, slower scenes that are more dialogue focused end up suffering and detracting from the great appeal of a good cast and great direction. Some rewrites have been applied but I must hand it to writer, Dan Gilroy, for making the perfect seque into A New Hope and overall doing a fantastic job. Rogue One is the movie I wanted more than The Force Awakens, yet I never knew. The atmosphere is unique, the characters have personality, and there are just better moments from this event in the galaxy far far away. I highly recommend it as it’s one of the best blockbusters of 2016.