Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Gareth Edwards
Screenwriters: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker
**Warning: this review contains spoilers for the plot of Rogue One. Read on if you’ve seen the film or don’t mind spoilers!**
Jyn Erso and K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk). Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story are a tie-in between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. However, unlike the prequel trilogy, original trilogy, and The Force Awakens, the film focuses on events of the rebellion though the experiences of people who are entirely outside of the Skywalker clan. Rogue One begins not with the expected scrolling text explaining the current affairs of the Empire and the state of the rebel movement, but shows instead the abduction of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) from his wife and young cherished daughter Jyn (adult Jyn is played by Felicity Jones) for his engineering expertise to be used in the making of the Death Star. Jyn escapes to a hiding place where Saw Guerra (a criminally underutilised Forest Whitaker), a veteran of the Clone Wars and more machine than man, finds her. He provides Jyn with guerrilla warfare training instead of a childhood which sees her incarcerated under an alias, and put to work in an imperial labour camp. Rebels rescue Jyn in order to use her relationship to Galen Erso to acquire information about the Death Star. A reluctant Jyn is paired with rebel-with-a-cause Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his hilarious reprogrammed, unfiltered, Imperial droid K2-SO (Alan Tudyk, Disney’s current go-to guy for voices). They are sent to find an enemy pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), to extract information from him. In the process, they are captured by a radical rebel group after a getting caught in the middle of a battle involving local ex-protectors of the old Jedi temple – staff wielding, blind, force-sensitive warrior who needs his own film, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and his big gun-toting buddy Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). Eventually, they all join forces to obtain plans for the Death Star, which then leads into the events of A New Hope.
Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
An interesting divergence Rogue One has from the other Star Wars films is that although The Force is mentioned a lot in Rogue One and used by a couple of characters, none are Jedi. Despite a lack of Jedi training, Force fanboy Chirrut has honed his use of The Force to such an extent that he can neutralise numerous Stormtroopers with a regular, non-laser-like, staff despite not having vision. Donnie Yen, arguably the best martial arts actor currently in the business, said he created a new martial art style unique to the character for Rogue One. At the end of the film we are reminded of the terrifying power of Darth Vader as he mercilessly slaughters multiple rebels with unthinking ease and use of The Force.
Also noteworthy is the diversity of the cast. White-supremacist groups and anti-feminist groups have called for a boycott of Rogue One for having both women and people of colour (in this case, many colours!) in significant, positive roles. Having brought in $420 million in box office sales by Christmas, it appears the boycott was ineffective. It is refreshing to watch some fresh faces that do not belong to perpetually cast white men, likely named Chris, who appear in every other film release of the past few years. It would, however, be even better to see more women of colour also in lead roles instead of Rogue One’s line up of one leading white woman surrounded by leading men.
Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen). Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Rogue One’s action is fantastic and the plot detailed yet not overly complicated. Seeing ruins of a once monolithic statue of a hooded Jedi figure partially swallowed by the sands of Jedha was a visual reminder of the massive loss of culture at the hands of the destructive rule of the Empire. However, with the focus more on world building, characters were left underdeveloped and lacked depth of personality present in characters in the other Star Wars films. Verbal inference of major life events that pushed Chirrut, Cassian, and Baze into joining the rebellion were used; perhaps if visual details of their past lives were explored more, emotional investment in the characters would have been easier and deeper. Jyn herself appeared to have a somewhat generic personality in comparison to her male co-stars, despite seeing much of her past and being the lead character. Even the inclusion of a highly emotional scene between Jyn and a holographic message from her father failed to build the depth of character necessary to make viewers heavily invest in Jyn. This resulted in the numerous deaths at the end of the film lacking a necessary emotional charge, leaving a lot of viewers simply a bit sad at the end of the film rather than in proper grief.
Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
All aspects accounted for, Rogue One is a good movie and very much worth seeing at least once, and would even be enjoyable for those unfamiliar with the Star Wars universe, especially from an action perspective.
4 out of 5 stars
– Jasmin Hoadley