Movie Review: ‘Rogue One’

Chris Shea

WOAH! Another new Star Wars movie? And so soon after the last one? “Wow,” I bet you’re thinking; “they must really be working the slaves at the Disney mining colony hard!” Well, hold on a second. This isn’t the flavor of Star Wars you’ve come to expect. Rogue One is in a bit of a weird spot when it comes to time. It’s been released a solid year after Episode 7, but it’s actually a prequel to the first (good) Star Wars movie. Well, kind of. It’s more of a spinoff-slash-prequel. A sprequoffel. That’s a word now.

Star Wars: Rogue One, directed by Gareth “not JJ Abrams” Edwards, tells the story of how those newfangled plans for that pesky Death Star got to where they were in the first movie. It’s interesting how the lizardmen at Disney have managed to make an entire 2 hour movie about a topic that got roughly 3 sentences worth of exposition in the original films, but it works. Boy, it works. The entire existence of Rogue One is supposed to simply serve as filler to keep Disney executives from being mauled to death by rabid Star Wars fans before they can squeeze out Episode 8, but the film manages to hold up on its own astoundingly well.

In addition to expanding the story of the universe, Rogue One introduces a whole smorgasbord of colorful new characters, all of whom I found myself liking just as much as (if not more than) the characters in The Force Awakens. Primary protagonist Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) reminds me of Rey from The Force Awakens if she weren’t made of cardboard, and all the other characters in her ragtag armada of hooligans are just as lovable. Chirrut Îmwe (the blind ninja dude) had me randomly muttering “I am one with the force and the force is with me” for the rest of the day, which garnered some strange looks from family members and pets who clearly weren’t down with my hip Star Wars references. Anywho, I digress.

The plot to Rogue One is one of the most compelling stories I’ve heard in a while, and it does an excellent job at developing its main characters. The ending is one of the most butt-clenching sequences I’ve seen in quite some time, and the whole thing wraps up in a bittersweet finale that looks and feels familiar to the OG Star Wars fans out there. However, the ending isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as the director decided to take the Game of Thrones approach to storytelling. Without spoiling anything specific, I’m just going to say that there probably isn’t going to be a Rogue Two.

From a technical standpoint, Rogue One looks and feels just like The Force Awakens, and that’s a very good thing. The special effects are spot-on, and I was amazed to later discover that entire characters were computer-generated. I later read a lot of people complaining about how the effects looked fake, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe it’s because I was too distracted by the terrible stormtrooper aim and sassy british robots, but I really had no idea they were CG until some internet cavedwellers pointed it out.

In my opinion, the thing that makes Rogue One such an interesting and appealing Star Wars movie is the fact that it’s a spinoff. It doesn’t have some big trilogy-long story arc to follow, and it never outstays its welcome. Rogue One doesn’t have the pressure of an entire trilogy of predefined characters hanging over its head, and the benefits are clear. What it does have is a story to tell, and it tells it with no cliffhangers, loose ends or elderly Mark Hamills staring you down at the last second. Rogue One gave me what The Force Awakens sorely lacked: closure. I loved The Force Awakens as much as the next sexy movie reviewer, but its ending really left you hanging for a film that wouldn’t come out for another two years.

In short, Rogue One does a lot to expand the world of Star Wars by doing its own thing. It goes back to the classic era of janky practical-effects Star Wars, and manages to bump up the visual fidelity without sacrificing the essence of what made the original so great. Rogue One shows how the Star Wars universe stretches far beyond the exploits of Luke and Leia, and makes the series’ lore a lot more accessible to people who don’t feel like growing a neckbeard and reading up on the entire expanded universe. As much as I like Star Wars, I haven’t quite hit that level of rock bottom yet. Rogue One, despite lacking the familiar faces of Episode 7, manages to stand on its own as an excellent movie that had every right not to be. On a scale of 1 to 5 llamas, I rate Star Wars: Rogue One a respectable 4 llamas.