Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits
Finally! Disney has finally grown a pair and embraced the notion of death and consequences in a franchise film. Ever so scared of disturbing a money making formula, the recently acquired Disney franchise, goes far beyond killing a minor character in The Avengers series or discarding an actor because of his age in the “Star Wars” sage. “Rogue One” is the most satisfying entry in the “Star Wars” series, especially for those non-fans like myself. It also doubles down on the diverse casting seen in last years “The Force Awakens”. Again, with a female lead, this time joined by Mexican actor Diego Luna. “Rogue One” delivers what fans are looking for with cameos of the iconic characters, but this stand-alone film is a harsh and unforgiving sci-fi fantasy war film aiming to stand apart from its predecessors.
The lost daughter of Imperial Military weapons designer Galen Erso (Mikkelsen), Jyn Ers (Jones) is neither on the side of the rebels or the empire. Her existence becomes a necessity for the rebels to turn the tide in the great space war. Galen Erso has created a weapon called The Death Star that can destroy entire planets. Military leader Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn) intends to use his control of the weapon to win favor with Vader. Galen has sent his daughter a message that deep in The Death Star lies a malfunction that can lead to its destruction. Jyn understands her purpose and decides where her alliance lies, teaming up with Rebel Intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Luna) to bring new hope to the resistance.
Disney has finally grown a pair and embraced the notion of death and consequences in a franchise film.
It takes a good 45 minutes to warm up to these new characters, understand their purpose, skills and traits. The script zig-zags all over the universe, from one planet to another as the plot lays it’s footing for a sizable battle that will end on a beach similar to something out of the D-Day history books. The fascinating concept of creating new characters in a familiar universe, meaning fans haven’t spent years icon-o-sizing over them. Weitz and Gilroy’s script quickly allow us to care about these new faces, before snatching them away. Cameos don’t play as big of a part here as last years “Star Wars Episode VII”, but still there is a sense of familiarity when old faces return momentarily to ensure the audience we are still working within the confines of saga.
Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) and Luna (“Y Tu Mamá También”) are the only actors with characters who are afforded a real sense of development, meaning they are actually given time to act instead of just react. It’s the moments of devastation and confrontation that give this action film depth, not the elaborate action sequences that are mostly bloated and overworked CGI battles. “Rogue One” still plays towards family entertainment with comedic robotic interjections and funny looking creatures, but parents might want to ready their young children for scenes of death. “Rogue One” is a war film, and in war films people die, even characters you like. The allegory of war zones and dictatorships have an even greater meaning here as some of the battle scenes and dialogue could easily be reflective of current events.
As Disney embraces death, destruction and consequence, this once redundant franchise reaches for higher ground.