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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review

MAY WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS!

So I went to the cinema for an early afternoon showing of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Friday, and I have all the feelings right now. While I hate being THAT GIRL (you know the one), I don’t know anyone who’s seen it, so I haven’t been able to discuss it with anyone! I am so in love with this movie!

Believe it or not, I didn’t actually sit down and watch the original Star Wars movies until Episode 1 came out. I was seventeen years old. Everyone else in my family LOVED the movies and we had them playing in our house at least once a month my whole life. But I was never interested. I’d seen bits and pieces of each film, and I knew enough quotable quotes to fit in with society, but that was as far as it went.

When The Phantom Menace was about to make its debut, my mom was making plans to take my two brothers to the theater to see it. I wanted to go, too, of course. I grew up rather poor, so going to the movies was a BIG DEAL. But my mother said there was no way she was taking me to see it, as I’d shown no interest  in the originals. She did make a concession, though – if I watched all three of the original movies, she’d take me along to see Episode 1. Well.

You’d better believe I was ALL OVER THAT. I  immediately grabbed Episode 4 from our movie cabinet and threw it in the DVD player. I watched it all through, and to be honest, I thought it was okay. In reality, I’d seen so many bits and pieces of the film over the years that none of it was unfamiliar to me. But it was nice to see it in the order in which things happened.

I think it took me a couple of days to get through all three. I was seventeen, and I did have a little bit of a social life. But once I’d finished, I realized that I actually LOVED the series. I really and truly did. Suddenly I found myself debating with others about which episode was the best (come on, it’s no contest – The Empire Strikes Back is everything!) and understanding the Star Wars puns everyone was throwing around.

And despite the fact that The Phantom Menace turned out to be a bit of a letdown to most, and despite the fact that our movie theater played TLC’s No Scrubs right before the film was shown, meaning I had that song going through my head the whole time, I still loved it. There hasn’t been a Star Wars film that has come out since then that I haven’t seen in the opening week.

Last year, when The Force Awakens came out, I was there opening night (thanks to a stroke of luck and a friend with extra tickets!), enthralled with Rey, a scrappy FEMALE hero who was going to save the galaxy! I suddenly realized what Star Wars has been missing! GIRLS!

While Princess Leia has always been a badass, let’s be realistic for a moment. She was always more eye candy and romantic fodder than epic heroine. I love that they turned her into an even more badass General in her later years, but Rey was far more relatable to me. She was young, with no clue to the amazing powers within her. While she had empathy and kindness (traits so often associated with ‘weak’ females), she also had zero trouble accepting her own powers and using them exactly the ways she needed to to survive. While we can still only suspect her back story (roll on 2017 and further answers!), we know she is a strong Jedi with huge promise.

But bringing it back around to Rogue One. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this film. In all honesty, while I knew it was coming out, I kind of wasn’t that enthusiastic. I didn’t obsess over the trailers like I have with other Star Wars films. I didn’t book tickets nor avoid spoilers (thankfully despite my carelessness, I didn’t see anything that would have spoiled the film). I simply accepted that I’d see it at some point. I didn’t even really fully grasp the timeline of this movie!

On Friday, my husband texted me from his office. He couldn’t wait to see the film, and he was adamant he wanted to see it before he was spoiled, so he had booked tickets over his lunch break to go see it. So off we went. If you do not wish to be spoiled, stop reading now.

SPOILER-FILLED RECAP!

For those who don’t know, the film takes place in the gap between Episodes 3 and 4. And if you’re wondering why you don’t see any of the characters from this film in the other movies, let me clear it up right here: everyone dies. Yes, you heard that right. By the end of this film, every single person you have spent 2+ hours cheering for is killed.

The film begins by introducing the little Erso family. Father Galen (Mad Mikkelsen) is an Empire Research Scientist who has taken his wife, Lyra (Valene Kane) and daughter, Jyn (Felicity Jones) far away to live a simple life as farmers. Unfortunately, the Empire wants him to come back to work. When they arrive, led by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military, his wife is killed, and Jyn hides in a pre-arranged spot to avoid detection. Daddy is taken away, while Jyn is rescued by rebel leader Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker).

Years pass, and we next see Jyn as a young 20-something woman imprisoned under a false name. While being transported, a rescue mission is mounted upon her by rebels who know who she really is. Her father, the mastermind behind the Death Star, has sent one of the Empire’s pilots, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), with information that will help the rebels to Saw Gerrara, the man who had raised Jyn as his own. Unfortunately, she has not seen Saw in years, as he had abandoned her when she was sixteen years old. Saw has disbanded from the rebels and become more of an extremist in the interim.

A band of rebels led by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his android K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) aim to rescue Jyn and use her to find out what information Saw Gerrara has. After Jyn agrees to help (in exchange for rescuing her father), Cassian is given orders to kill Galen Erso on sight.

Jyn, Cassian and K-2 head to Jedha to find Gerrara. His people are engaged in an armed insurgency against Imperial foces who are there to extract Kyber crystals to power the Death Star. Though they try to blend in and stay out of trouble, Cassian and Jyn are drawn into an altercation. They come out of it unscathed, thanks to the help of a blind Force-obsessed warrior, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and mercenary bodyguard, Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang). However, not long after they are taken by Gerarra’s men, and Jyn comes face to face with her former guardian. After a touching reunion where Gerrara admits he still cares deeply about Jyn, he shows her the holographic message that her father has sent him, which includes information on the Death Star’s secret vulnerability and expressing his love for his daughter. He tells her that the plans are in a high security data bank on the planet Scarif.

While all of this is happening, Grand Moff Tarkin (a CGI Peter Cushing) demands a demonstration of the Death Star’s destruction capabilities from Krennic. They decide to test it out by destroying the capital city on Jedha. Jyn and her rebels are forced to flee the moon in haste, but Saw Gerrara refuses to join them, and he is killed in the mass destruction of the city. The rebels barely escape. Tarkin congratulates Krennic on the success of the demonstration and then tells him he is taking control of the project. He also alerts him to the fact that there is a traitor in Erso’s outpost.

Movie Review - Star Wars Rogue One

The rebels head to the research facility where Galen Erso is in charge. Cassian has alerted the rebel leaders about the holographic message that Jyn saw at Saw Gerrara’s, however the leaders tell Cassian his orders still stand – kill Galen. On the pretext of scoping out the place, Cassian takes Bodhi with him to get a look at the lay of the land. Jyn, staying behind with the rest of the gang, wants to go, too. When the blind Chirrut Imwe asks if Cassian “looks like a killer,” Jyn realizes that he has sensed what Cassian is about to do. She goes after him, while Chirrut and Baze go after her.

Meanwhile, Krennic has arrived at the same research facility to find out which of the team has been a traitor. He tells Galen to bring out all of his researchers. He threatens to kill them all. Galen jumps out and admits that he is the traitor. Krennic still kills all of the researchers.

Cassian, who watches the whole thing, has already decided not to follow his orders. As he watches, he sees that Jyn has made it to the platform where her father is. An incoming rebel raid can not be stopped, and Galen Erso is hit by a rebel bomb. Jyn crawls to his side and hears him remind her to get to Scarif, get the plans and destroy the death star. Cassian drags her away so that they can escape in a stolen Imperial cargo shuttle.

Back at the rebel base, Jyn tries to convince the leadership that they must go to Scarif, steal the Death Star schematics and destroy it. But since Galen and Gerrara (the only other two who can verify her story) are dead and the hologram destroyed, the rebels can’t verify her story or agree on a plan. Frustrated by the inaction of leadership, Jyn, Cassian, K-2 and several other rebels (including Chirrut and Baze) steal the Imperial shuttle and head to Scarif themselves. When ground control attempts to question them as they leave, asking for their call sign, Bodhi offers up the call sign, “Rogue One.”

Upon arriving in Scarif, Jyn and Cassian don the uniforms of Imperial officers and head out with K-2SO to find their plans. The rest of the team begins setting off explosives around the landing area to distract the soldiers. All hell breaks loose as each rebel tries to do his job. The main rebel alliance has decided to help these rogues after all, but they can’t get through the shield gate to the planet. Krennic has closed it after arriving with the intention of going through every communications Galen Erso ever sent in order to discover what message he may have sent his daughter.

Jyn finds the Death Star plans in the data vaults, and Cassian is wounded and falls from a tower. K-2 gives his robot life to save them from stormtroopers. Rook, Imwe and Malbus are among those killed trying to restore communications. As Jyn finally makes it to the top of the tower to send off the plans to the rebels, she is confronted by Krennic who declares that the Empire’s victory is inevitable. Before he can do much, Cassian returns and shoots him.

Jyn and Cassian manage to send off the Death Star plans to the rebel leaders in space battle above them. Meanwhile, the Death Star, led by Tarkin has decided to use it to destroy Scarif. Jyn and Cassian stare into the horizon as doom comes for them. Cassian tells Jyn her father would be proud of her. They, along with Krennic are killed when the planet blows up.

As the rebel fleet is retreating, a newly awakened Darth Vader arises and intercepts their ships. He boards the command ship, intending to take back the plans, and he angrily kills many rebels. However, the ship escapes, and the plans are handed into the hands of a CGI Princess Leia who declares that they now have the hope they needed to survive.

Movie Review - Star Wars Rogue One

FINAL THOUGHTS

Whew! What an emotional rollercoaster! The overarching theme of the movie, which fans of Episode 4 will find as no surprise, is HOPE. The movie was, after all, called A New Hope. The famous line from Princess Leia – “Help me, Obiwan Kenobi. You’re my only hope” – is given new meaning when you realize just how incredible it was that these plans ended up in her hands in the first place. Jyn’s and company’s sacrifice is never mentioned. But their role in the intergalactic war is probably the single most important. Galen Erso’s status as double-agent and his ability to work for the Empire convincingly while plotting its demise is inspirational.

The special effects in the film definitely deserve a mention. Not only did we have a fairly convincing 20 year old Princess Leia appearing as she does in Episode 4, but we also have a fully realized Grand Moff Tarkin, despite the fact that Peter Cushing died in 1994!

The music in the film was subtle, yet perfectly aligned with the rest of the franchise. The sound effects were spot on, as well.

In other films, such as The Theory of Everything, I’ve found Felicity Jones rather unlikable. But she shines as Jyn Erso, and I can’t imagine anyone else who could have done the role justice. The character is nuanced as I’d like her to be – at times vulnerable and soft but overwhelmingly strong and driven. She isn’t necessarily funny, but her wry sense of humor comes through in the way she sees and shapes the world around her. It is easy to see why Cassian takes to her and why others join up with her in the final battle. She is a natural leader who knows when to fight and looks into death without fear or regret.

I wasn’t sure about Diego Luna as Cassian Andor when he first appeared on screen. I hadn’t seen any of his other films, and I was getting major Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell – the Red Viper from Game of Thrones) vibes from him for a while. But as it went on, it was clear that he was the Yin to Jyn’s Yang with the same qualities that make her such a great character. In fact, while Jyn comes across as a female with a more masculine personality, Cassian is the male with a softer, more feminine side. Both characters need these traits to drive them to do what they must.

K-2SO is by far my favorite android character. Alan Tudyk lends one of his arsenal of voices to the character and is spot on in his portrayal. K-2 is funny because of his deadpan threats and questions. He is a mixture of Marvin, the Paranoid Android and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.

I could go on and on, as each character has their own incredible story with its own sad ending. Taken all together, the ensemble will make you wish the movie was just a little longer. Given that the trailers released before the film had memorable scenes/lines cut from the feature, I am hoping that the director’s cut will extend the movie and add to its beauty.

All in all, I highly recommend seeing it in theaters as soon as you can. For a film I had no expectations from, it truly blew me away.

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