By Zemerluan Meehan
The latest Triple-A installment in the “Star Wars” continuum dropped on December 16, marking the next major achievement that the hulking mogul of a franchise has produced in the last couple of years. The Force Awakens started the ball rolling again after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, and since then, fans around the world have been holding out for “Rogue One”, which returns to the original “Star Wars” films to deliver a massively entertaining crowd-pleaser of a film.
Set between the infamous chronicles of a lovestruck Anakin Skywalker’s descent into madness and the events of A New Hope, the film details the noble and suitably treacherous mission of Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones), who is made to steal the plans for the Death Star that are used to destroy it in A New Hope.
Jyn is the daughter of Galen Erso, the brilliant and troubled mind behind the creation of the Death Star. Jyn finds herself in league with the rebels because of her relation to her close friend, Saw Gerrera, while her father ends up working for the Empire and its eerie technologies administrator, Krennic.
While family ties grow more and more nebulous and estranged, Jyn is instructed to steal the schematics for the Death Star in a rebel starship codenamed Rogue One with the help of an intriguing partner Cassian, whose motives become more and more murky as the film progresses. Felicity Jones does a fantastic job as the one-woman dynamo that drives the narrative in “Rogue One,” playing spiritual successor to other exceptional heroines throughout cinematic history (think Sigourney Weaver or Uma Thurman).
Her portrayal of an estranged youth steeped in the throes of a galaxy-wide rebellion against one of the most fearsome powers in the universe is solid and believable, a feat not to be understated.
In addition to the diverse human cast (Donnie Yen of Ip Man makes the scene as a blind force-wielder, along with a few more Chinese actors), the film also features yet another droid companion, a reprogrammed Empire model named K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk.
Larger, cruder, and much more imposing than C-3PO, K-2SO is a straightforward and often-abrasive personality that plays along well with Jyn’s heart of gold and occasionally snarky countenance.
The film has an incredible ability to capture and hold attention through fantastic CGI and nostalgia – sometimes a mix of the two; the actor who originally played Grand Moff Tarkin, Peter Cushing, died in ‘94. He was brought back to the big screen for this production through a mix of incredibly lifelike CGI and motion capture.
However, despite the incredible entertainment value and undisputed importance in the “Star Wars” continuity, “Rogue One” seems as though it could have stood a bit more innovation and vision. Much of the score was familiar and same, and the film relied on its assumption that people would come see it because it’s a new “Star Wars” film more than anything else.
The “Rogue One” story had been explored through comics and books long before this film saw release, and the theatrical release touched on many of the same tonal shifts and elements that made every other “Star Wars” movie just another “Star Wars” movie.
That isn’t a bad thing, per se, and while the movie did attempt to lead the audience to empathize with the many destroyed cultures and peoples displayed throughout the film, with its somewhat graver emphasis on the truly terrible power of the Death Star, one would imagine more of a departure from the traditional, tiring motions from films of the past, considering the title of this movie is “Rogue One.”
Despite its reliance on nostalgia and aging “Star Wars” tropes to sell itself, “Rogue One” is a worthy and wholly entertaining entry to the “Star Wars” continued universe.