I’ll start by calming your nerves. Yes, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a good movie. Moreover, it’s a good Star Wars movie. All the known quantities are there: From a bombastic soundtrack – Michael Giachhino expertly filling veteran John Williams’ shoes – to lasers flying everywhere. From a legion of interesting aliens to the seemingly impossible odds in the battle against the oppressive Empire. En from belly-roaring laughs to gut-wrenching setbacks.
Despite Rogue One feeling like a proper Star Wars film, the movie does skirt around the edges of what’s possible within the franchise. The most obvious change being the absence of an opening crawl. To be honest, I missed it a lot. In my opinion, the opening scene feels so much like a classic Star Wars opener that they might as well have tacked on the crawl. Next anthology, I’d like to see either the crawl brought back or a radically different type of opener.
Luckily, other deviations from the formula turn out better. The flashbacks add a lot of emotions (especially to those who have read Catalyst – review here). And the almost war documentary-like type of filming is a breath of fresh air among the more straight-forward shootouts we’re used to. It drags you right down in the sand along with our new heroes. And that’s exactly what was needed to forge a strong connection with these characters in a single movie.
Speaking of characters, that’s where the heart of the movie is at. The main cast fails to disappoint – even though Saw Gerrera’s voice took getting used to – and there’s some real standouts. K-2SO, for instance, is a scene stealer in every sense of the word, claiming the spotlight with his dry wit and lack of subtlety. Chirrut is another highlight, juggling roles as the wise mentor and ultimate fighter, all the while scoring some of the biggest laughs in the movie. Furthermore, Cassian and Bodhi are pleasant surprises, considering both are quite a bit different from how they’ve been portrayed in the trailers.
We have the amazing marketing team to thank for that. Rogue One has been subject to a lot of prying eyes, making it seem like we knew all of its secrets. Turns out, it still has plenty of surprises left. There’s whole planets we haven’t seen in any promotional material, situations that wildly differ from trailers, and too many easter eggs to name here. Original trilogy fans, prequel fans, Clone Wars and Rebels fans… All of you will find multiple references that will make you very happy. And I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of them, as well.
The bad guys are well-represented as well. Krennic is a new type of Imperial officer. One not too afraid of Vader to let the towering presence stand in the way of promotion. One driven to take his Death Star project to full completion. Though sadly, one whose ambitions are maybe slightly too subtle to really come across to people who haven’t read Catalyst.
Darth Vader’s in it as well, and you’re probably dying to know how much he’s in the film. Well.. Not that much. However, when we do see him, he’s Vader at his most terrifying. He may not have much screentime to boast about, but he still makes his mark on the entire film.
The ultimate mark on the movie is left by the visual effects team though. Rogue One is a gorgeous movie, with plenty of already iconic shots. This is most apparent in the space battle above Scarif. Tension is high and the use of existing craft is ingenious, you won’t believe what you’re seeing. It’s the perfect adrenaline pumping antithesis to the gritty battlefront on the planet’s surface. And it all culminates in perhaps the greatest final fifteen minutes a Star Wars film has ever produced.
All in all, Rogue One is exactly the movie I hoped it would be. An ace addition to the Star Wars sage that adds extra layers to A New Hope, all while showing that not all good things come in trilogies. With Rogue One as the foundation of a legion of Star Wars Stories, the franchise has never been in better shape. All is as the Force wills it!