The first standalone Star Wars movie that is separate from the main series has arrived in the form of, to give it its full title, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This stands aside (but not disconnected) from the rest of the series as Godzilla director Gareth Edwards gives us what is essentially the best prequel film yet. Edwards finds the perfect mix of nostalgia and freshness as he sets the stage for A New Hope, giving the story an exciting momentum that builds to a spectacular finale and establishes Rogue One as one of the best blockbuster movies of 2016. It takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride from start to finish in a crowd-pleasing movie experience that casual movie goers may like or even love, the Star Wars fans that will get the most out of this one, which manages to balance its fan-service with an excellent narrative that makes it well worth the admission price.
The film itself is possibly the closest the series has come to the “War” part yet, with no Jedi featured and no Sith aside from Darth Vader, who is restricted to one memorable sequence that will become an instant favorite for many. Instead the film puts the spotlight on the rebellious, anti-authoritarian Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who finds herself teaming up with a band of Rebels including Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) in order to steal the plans to a newly operational starkiller base known as the Death Star, which was built by Jyn’s father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen).
The characters are an interesting bunch. Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso is the most memorable of the lot alongside the great K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), and Riz Ahmed plays his part well as a defecting Imperial fighter pilot Bodhi Rook. However, this is where the problems start coming in that other Star Wars movies don’t suffer from, because of the increased main cast there is less time to develop the characters, and while they all get their moments in the sun, they don’t really feel as memorable or iconic as say Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. They don’t even feel as memorable as Rey, Poe, and Finn do, for example. That said, the actors are well cast and there isn’t a bad performance here, with this being a case of much like Captain America: Civil War and Star Trek Beyond where the ensemble is greater than the individual.
On the villainous side, Ben Mendelsohn is impressive. Mads Mikkelsen may not play as vital part as I’d have hoped going into the movie, but he impresses in his role with the opening sequence. Featuring Galen and a young Jyn, as well as Mendelsohn, this is an excellent opening scene that really sets the stage for Jyn’s character and introduces her very well. And also, isn’t it great to have a Star Wars protagonist who doesn’t come from a desert planet for a change?
The movie is well paced, with several scenes spent setting the stage for the final fight. Whilst it is true that most of this movie is about setting up the events in A New Hope the film is perfectly viewable as a standalone movie. After watching Rogue One one thing that it really will make you want to do is revisit the Star Wars movie that started it all, because it lays down the groundwork so well for that film, putting the places into play and answering several unanswered questions, chief among them being why the Death Star has such a big flaw to its design system. There are also cameos from original series characters and actors that really work, with CGI being used to bring a couple of characters to life. It does have mixed results with one character working better than the other, at the end of the day, it’s just so cool to see them worked into this film in a way that really works.
Refreshingly different from other blockbuster movies in that it doesn’t have a horde of enemies descending out of a sky portal, Rogue One culminates in a final act that is possibly one of the best final acts of a Star Wars film that I’ve seen. The battles both on the land and sea are glorious, making Scarif an instantly memorable location in the Star Wars universe with a great concept that sees all the major players involved. It’s a pure delight, and is handled so well it’s easy to see why that Gareth Edwards was the director of choice for this film.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a movie that fans will love and serves as a crowd-pleasing entry into a fantastic series. It may not go without its flaws, but for the most part, it overcomes the distinct lack of Jedi incredibly well and leaves an instant impression as probably one of the best blockbusters of the year, alongside Star Trek Beyond, making it an excellent year for both franchises.
But at the end of the day, it’s a Star Wars film. Of course you’ll want to see this one on the big screen.