Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.
Time to talk about my most anticipated film of the year!
To give you a hint of my excitement level; three days into its cinematic release, I’ve already watched it twice and pre-ordered a digital copy on iTunes.
If you can’t tell – I loved this film. Perhaps more than The Force Awakens.
Before I go into details, a few disclaimers:
- This review will be a SPOILER review. If you haven’t seen the film yet, do yourself a favour and watch the film!
- I am also writing this review having read the Rogue One prequel novel, Catalyst: A Rogue One novel. I highly recommend reading this book before watching Rogue One. This prequel novel establishes the intriguing backstory of Galen Erso, Orson Krennic and their contribution to the Death Star.
Last chance to turn back before I spoil everything!
First, what I loved about this film.
Unlike The Force Awakens and other saga films, Rogue One does not rely on the Skywalker or the Jedi. Instead this film showcases the true struggle of the rebellion. A rebellion that is morally grey. A rebellion that is willing to bend its integrity to bring down the Empire. In fact, I did not miss the Jedi at all. It was rather refreshing to know that Obi-wan won’t swoop in and save the day.
With this, I come to the biggest spoiler – everyone dies in Rogue One. I suspected death, but I did not expect them ALL to go down in a blaze of glory. In a way, this was a pleasant surprise. Garth Edwards handled each character death masterfully. Every member of the Rogue One squad had a purpose. For me, their sacrifice felt real and impactful. And knowing that their sacrifices were pivotal to the Death Star’s ultimate destruction, elevated my enjoyment of A New Hope. It added an emotional weight to Episode IV that was previously missing. (Yes – I popped in Harmy’s Despecialized edition as soon as I got home). Apart from the emotional impact, Rogue One cleverly fixes one of the most talked about problems with A New Hope – the exhaust port! With a wave of their billion dollar bill, Disney-owned Lucasfilm changed Star Wars history. The weakness of the Death Star was a trap all along. It was planted by Galen Erso and serves as his revenge against the Empire. Bravo Lucasfilm.
Despite being short lived, there were a number of memorable characters. My favourites were Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Cassian Andor encapsulated the desperation of the rebellion, while K-2SO was edgy and charismatic. However, the best human moment came from Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). I felt Jyn’s agony as she collapses upon watching her father’s hologram. This was especially moving as a reader of Catalyst. Galen Erso’s affection for his wife, Lyra, and daughter, Jyn, was well established in the prequel novel. It was heart wrenching to see a loving family torn apart by the ambition of Krennic.
On the other side was the Empire, particuarly Orson Krennic, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin. After my second viewing, I overheard complaints about the lack of Vader. I respectfully disagree. Rogue One was never about Vader. His two appearances were powerful and justified. His scene with Krennic reminded the audience of the brutality and terror of the Sith Lord. While his merciless performance at the end was beautifully(?) choreographed. Another complaint I heard was about Tarkin. The obvious problem with Tarkin was the absence of Peter Cushing. I applaud Lucasfilm for pushing the limit of CGI, however I don’t think they quite bridged the uncanny valley. I say we are 70% there. But the knowledge of Peter Cushing’s passing alone was enough for me to scrutinise the CGI. Whether the industry can overcome the remaining 20% is anybody’s guess.
The CGI technology aside, I personally think Rogue One needed Tarkin’s presence. This, however, leads me to the weakness of Rogue One – the reliance on the prequel novel and the lack of an opening crawl. If you read Catalyst, you would know that Tarkin and Krennic were rivals amidst a power struggle. Tarkin was part of the Emperor’s inner circle, while Krennic, a power craving bureaucrat, seeks to topple Tarkin. In Catalyst, this game of wits was not played out fully. Instead the outcome was revealed in Rogue One. Despite knowing that Tarkin will eventually come out on top, it was still fascinating to witness the poetic demise of Krennic by his own weapon. With that said, if you haven’t read Catalyst and spend as much time with these characters as I did, the importance of Tarkin may not be apparent. This can also be said for Galen Erso, whose backstory was told through Catalyst. Personally, I think an opening crawl that summaries Catalyst would have been perfect. It would have provided the general audience with the necessary backstory.
Finally, I HAVE to talk about the third act. The last 30 minutes of this film was mind blowing! The space battle and the beach assault were both exhilarating. Possibly the best space battle ever on screen. I love how they took down a Destroyer with a Hammerhead corvette. Cannot wait to get my hands on a Blue-ray copy! With this, I will conclude by saying that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a brilliant film. This anthology film achieved the impossible – it elevated my love for the original trilogy. I cannot wait to journey back to the galaxy far, far away with Episode VIII.
Rating: The third act alone is worth the price of admission. Must watch for any Star Wars fans!
Of course there were plenty of easter eggs and references, here is what I found upon my second viewing:
- Star Wars Clone Wars / Rebels references – Saw Gerrera, The Ghost, Hera Syndulla, Chopper.
- A New Hope references -Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Wedge Antilles, Gold leader, Red Five, Dr. Evazan & Ponda Baba, Blue milk, Tantive IV.
- Revenge of the Sith references – Mustafar (Vader’s planet)