Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was directed by Gareth Edwards and is the direct prequel to the original 1977 film Star Wars; It ends right when A New Hope begins. It tells the story of a band of rebels that steal the plans to the Death Star mentioned in the opening crawl of the 1977 film. Thus, this explains Darth Vader’s quite dramatic and heated first appearance.
In the beginning, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is abandoned by her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) by involvement with his old friend, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Galen is forced to design the dreaded Death Star in fear that Krennic will kill his daughter as mercilessly as he did his wife. Years later, Jyn is captured by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a rebel assassin, and his reprogrammed imperial droid, K2-SO, played brilliantly by Alan Tudyk. They travel to the moon Jedha (a sacred Jedi homeworld) to recover a rogue imperial pilot (Riz Ahmed). In the meanwhile, they meet up with Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind Jedi Temple guard, and his friend Baz Malbus (Wen Jiang), who’s pretty good with a nice big blaster.
One of the best things about Rogue One is that it feels different yet similar at the same time. It’s been described as a WWII movie mixed along with the Star Wars films, and it definitely feels that way. We are seeing a Star Wars universe with no Jedi for the first time, which gives us a chance to see different sides of the Empire and the Rebellion.
One thing is for sure: the acting is excellent! Arguably, Felicity Jones is the best lead we have had in a Star Wars movie since Mark Hamill played Luke Skywalker for the first time in ‘77. She brings edge to the character to give her more complexity than is written on the page. Alan Tudyk completely steals the movie as K2-SO. He provides humor in even the darkest of scenes. The rest of the cast are excellent as well; the only sub-par performance is Forest Whitaker as the rebel extremist, Saw Gerrera. His acting is slightly over the top, which is surprising for an Oscar-winning actor.
The third act is one best third acts in the history of Star Wars movies, particularly the final two and a half minutes. The action scenes Gareth Edward directed are masterful as they— quite literally — keep you on the edge of your seats. Edwards should be given a some applause for this. The directing is what really makes this film worth seeing.
Regardless of how much I, and millions of others, have enjoyed it, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is flawed. The filmmakers and Lucasfilm heads all decided to cut the iconic opening crawl in order to differentiate itself from the other Star Wars movies. This leads to an incredibly confusing first 15 minutes unless you were lucky enough to read the expanded universe prequel novel Catalyst (which I did) that details the backstory of Gallen Erso and Orsen Krennic. The rest of us were left in the dust to assume what’s going on. Additionally, the characters are a bit too one-dimensional. For example, Jyn is relatively well fleshed out, but the rest of the characters are given one quirk and nothing else. If it wasn’t for the great performances, this movie may have been a major flop.
The infamous Darth Vader is surprisingly under utilized as well. I give the filmmakers credit for not trying to over use him, but he seems very sidelined. There’s also a new kind of CGI used to create classic Star Wars characters. It looks impressive, but the audience is always aware that there is nothing actually there, which is a bit odd.
In the end, I think it’s a good movie, definitely the best prequel we have seen in the Star Wars universe to date. There were just a few too many significant issues that kept me from loving it like last 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Overall I still would definitely recommend this film. If you have the chance, go check it out! This is by far the movie you are looking for.