“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is not only another Star Wars movie, but it was a crucial part of the story that fills in some of the gaps between the prequel trilogy from 10 years ago and the originals from 30 years ago.
Although it is not an official installment of the main saga, this film does something many parts of the prequel trilogy couldn’t: feel like a real Star Wars movie. There is a lot to like about all the movies in this series, but I never felt like the good guys couldn’t win. Even in suspenseful, life-or-death situations, I never thought the good guys could die.
But here, even though I know what’s going to happen, I actually felt like the characters were in real danger, that something awful was going to happen or that the Rebels were not going to defeat the Galactic Empire.
For that, more than anything, I cannot wait to watch this installment again and again. It has something I haven’t felt about a Star Wars movie since the original trilogy 30 years ago.
It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a secret base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet
Taking place in the weeks leading up to the events of “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope,” a group of unlikely heroes from varied backgrounds band together on a secret mission to infiltrate the Empire’s information headquarters and leak the Death Star plans and a hidden trap laid inside that the Rebels can use to destroy it before it’s too late.
Even though it’s a story we already know how it ends and isn’t that big in comparison to the main Star Wars saga, it is the story that really drove this movie. But it isn’t all great.
The first act is slow. So many brand new characters and locations are introduced in the first 45 minutes, but none of them are particularly interesting or worth making a personal connection to. There’s a lot more spewing exposition than naturally learning about the characters, but that’s actually okay once the second and third acts are in full swing.
Now, when I say the characters I can’t connect to, I really mean the two leads. They are easily the weakest links. Although the stars, Felicity Jones and Diego Luna, give good performances, the script doesn’t give them enough to let them stretch their acting chops, but that’s because there are so many others.
Luna’s C-3PO-esque droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) steals the entire show. He’s snarky throughout the movie, but he’s just so loveable. He’s the jerk who’s still hilarious and an awesome part of the team. He has some of the best lines in any Star Wars movie.
The villain is also a delight. Ben Mendelsohn has been a hardworking actor for decades and he finally gets to shine as the Empire officer Orson Krennic. This guy cannot catch a break. At every turn, his plans are foiled, but Mendelsohn plays him so joyfully hateful that I can’t help but love it every time he’s on screen. But again, we don’t really know much about the character.
More than anything, this film ties together the prequels and originals nicely to where all the films feel like one big series instead of two separate trilogies. The references to previous movies are small, but still, make sense and improve the saga as a whole.
In the original trilogy, the Rebels were made out to be too squeaky clean made up entirely of good guys with the Empire made up entirely of bad guys. But here, we finally get to see Rebels play dirty and do some morally compromising things. Rebellions ain’t big and they ain’t cheap, so the ones who are there need to do anything — both good and bad — to stop the Empire.
The CGI is practically flawless, especially in the battle scenes. This is the most “war movie” installment we’ve had of Star Wars, ironically enough, but everything about it looks and feels real. All the spaceships, battle vehicles, laser blasts, all of it looks real.
For any Star Wars fan, this is an essential. Everything about it fits right in with the already established universe. It’s darker and grittier but feels exactly like the rest of the story from long ago in a galaxy far, far away.