Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

Film Review |By Christian Tesfaye - special to Fortune

There will be a number of Star Wars installments in the offering in the next number of years. That is a good thing. The latest, Rogue One is probably the grittiest, less pessimistic film in the star wars saga. Sadly, George Lucas parted ways from the series and Disney has owned the rights since 2012. However, what is exciting is, the legacy has continued masterfully. A Star Wars Story 7 out of 10 stars.

The Force is back. Most of us know what this means – there is a new Star Wars movie in the city. But this particular occasion, it is going to be very novel. Although the film would take place inside the Star Wars universe, it would not star any skywalker character. Back in 1977, the release of the first Star Wars movie – A New Hope – caused quite a stir among audiences of all ages.

It not only changed how movies would be made (by employing a relatively great amount of computer animation) or marketed (by creating other sources of merchandizing revenue) but was also a huge success with critics. It was also a hit in awards circuits (although the film did lose Best Director and Best Picture to Woody Allen’s laid-back Annie Hall). But the film had one major plot hole that made the film’s ending. Even fully knowing the place the movie occupies in cinema – very hard to tolerate without at least a titter. During the climax of the movie, Luke Skywalker, against all odds, destroys the mighty and powerful moon-sized device known as the Death Star. He does it by simply shooting at its single most fatal part.

Why would the Death Star have such a vulnerable spot that conveniently ends up giving the good guys a resounding victory? For almost 40 years, we all thought it was just lazy writing. With the release of Rogue One, we know better. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a daughter of an imperial science officer. After being estranged from her father, she is raised by the extremist rebel Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and spends most of her life in hiding from Imperial troops.

One day, she finds herself amidst the alliance (of the rebels). She is given a mission to track down a pilot that claims to carry a great secret about the evil empire. The great secret is actually no secret to anyone that has watched A New Hope. In that film, the two sibling Skywalkers and Han Solo destroy the Death Star based on the intelligence provided them by a then unnamed group of rebels. Well, Rogue One explains that Jyn and her crew were the rebels, and furthermore, the famous plot hole is altered into a credible story line. As Jyn’s father was the chief designer of the Death Star, and sympathetic to the cause of the rebels, he secretly placed the design flaw that would later help Skywalker win the battle. As we all know, rebellions do not always have happy endings – just look at the civil war in Syria.

Rogue One is probably the grittiest, least pessimistic, least light hearted film in the Star Wars saga (which may not be saying that much). The humor itself is raw, with the exception of one very funny joke. As it is a spin-off, and the lead characters are unlikely to ever show up in any other Star Wars film, the fate of the protagonist is precarious. In the director’s chair of Rogue One is Gareth Edwards. He takes the baton from J.J. Abrams who made last year’s mega blockbuster Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens.

Edwards came into the cinematic arena with his offbeat, independently financed comedy movie Monsters (2010). The acclaimed film helped him get hired for the remake of Godzilla. And now with Rogue One, he is on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s directors. The cast is led by Felicity Jones, who plays Jyn with curious determination. She is usually uptight but bold and resolute when the moment calls for it. Opposite her is the young but seasoned rebel Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who has his own reasons for accompanying Jyn on her journey.

The two are complemented with a group of very unique sidekicks that include an impersonal robot, a blind warrior and a taciturn marksman. Even if Rouge One was not all that good a movie, for many Star Wars fans, it would still be worth the ticket price to get to watch some of the series’ most famous characters make an appearance. The most awesome scene through the entirety of the film is one where Darth Vader promptly and brutally takes out a number of rebel fighters. Princess Leila (in her younger years, thanks to state of the art special effects) and the endearing characters R2D2 and C-3PO also show up at some points in the movie.

Although all Star Wars movies are great commercial successes, some actually end up doing a disservice to the franchise. What all of the series’ producers try to avoid is A Phantom Menace (a prequel Star Wars movie released in 1999) like debacle where fans and critics are alienated by a base plot and annoying computer-generated characters (namely, Jar Jar Binks). The next four years would see a number of other Star Wars installments. These films, all produced by Disney, after the company bought the rights to the series from George Lucas in 2012, will be spinoffs (like this one) as well as continuations of The Force Awakens.

The next spinoff will explore the origin stories of series favorite Han Solo, while the sequel to The Force Awakens will resume the Skywalker saga.This decade the Force will indeed be strong.

By Christian Tesfaye
special to Fortune

Published on Dec 27,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 869]



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