Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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Since Disney acquired the Star Wars rights from LucasFilm, they’ve eschewed the expanded Star Wars universe.  For those who aren’t geeks, the expanded universe of Star Wars weren’t films, but rather a large library of books, comics and video games that have been written and created over the past thirty some years to flesh out the story.  For geeks, what this means is that all the time we spent in 1997 trying to steal the plans for the Death Star in the video game Dark Forces have been made irrelevant by the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One.

Rogue One is the Dirty Dozen of Star Wars movies.  It’s story focuses on a suicide mission taken on by a bunch of unsung heroes who are thrust together by circumstances (or the Force) in order to get the plans for the Death Star into the hands of the Rebel Alliance.  Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, A Monster Calls) is the main character of the film.  As the daughter of an Empire engineer, she is approached by the alliance to use her father to get a hold of the plans for the new super-weapon the Empire is building.  Along the way, she’s put in to contact with other outcasts who have their own reasons for fighting against the Empire.  They form the team Rogue One and set out to put an end to the Empire’s plans.  They eventually learn that the port hole weak-point in the Death Star was deliberately created, which makes the Death Star expy in The Force Awakens seem silly.  Do all doomsday weapon architects that work for the Empire secretly hate them?  Perhaps if they make a Rogue Two, we will find out.

rogue-one-opens-on-december-16Suffice to say I liked Rogue One much more than I did The Force Awakens.  I did have some complaints, however.  The beginning of Rogue One contains too many segue-ways in order to introduce many characters in a small period of time. It lacks cohesion.  Also, Forrest Whitaker as a Rebel leader wasn’t the best casting choice.  He’s an amazing actor but his distinctive look and mannerisms make him stand out whereas he should be blending in.  Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe is an example of how to approach a well known actor playing a Star Wars character.  This is of course, my own opinion.  Unfortunately, both of these two characters have drawn parallels to Islamic terrorists by those who want to apply real world logic onto fiction.  “May the Force be With You” isn’t akin to “Allah Akbar”.  The Rebel Alliance isn’t seeking to dominate the world through fear, they are seeking to rid the evil and oppressive government who uses the dark side of the Force to obtain power through fear and domination.  Saying the Rebels are terrorists is like someone watching Lord of the Rings and thinking it’s a troubling story about midgets stealing a man’s family heirloom.

With those criticisms out of the way, Rogue One gets better once the films finds it’s footing. Despite the all over the map first twenty minutes, once the team is assembled, it becomes a much easier film to follow.  Add to that the final battle scenes are fairly brutal (for a Star Wars film), and some familiar faces are re-introduced. Also, Rogue One’s ending leads directly to A New Hope, which I thought was a nice touch.

Directed by Gareth Edward (Godzilla), Rogue One gives us a different glimpse of the Star Wars universe.  Rogue One is a much more gritty affair for the movie universe, and that is something usually reserved for the expanded universe.  And that’s what makes Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars license awesome for fans.  Sure, the expanded universe is dead, and The Force Awakens was a remake, but the new stand alone flicks are dream projects.  There is a lot of creative minds looking to make their mark on the Star Wars universe and The Mouse House is willing to fund it.  Rogue One gives fans a new hope for what may come.

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