The Star Wars fan base has been spread across four decades and has produced the firm foundation for any new venture into this cinematic galaxy. Even with this built in audience, for any director to helm a new storyline would be a daunting task. Unlike Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this one-off anthology does not have the familiar faces to bank on and is reliant on a relatively new band of rebels for fans to consider. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dips its toe into uncharted waters with these new characters. Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) must work to gain the trust of the faithful Star Wars enthusiasts and hope they are willing to go on a new journey that is set between Episode III and Episode IV.
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has experienced difficult blows throughout her lifetime. These challenges have been the crucible that has formed the tough and insubordinate soul that is perfect for the Rebel Alliance. Unaware of the rebellion’s desire to recruit her, she merely desires to live a life free of politics. When she is brought before the leadership of the Alliance, she must consider whether to take up the task of stealing the plans for the Empire’s newest super weapon, The Death Star.
Despite her independent spirit and penchant for leading with her sharp wit and fists, Jyn must work with Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his straight-talking android, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). They must figure out how to get the plans from the hands of the Empire and back to the rebel forces before the weapon of mass-destruction is used across the galaxy. What begins as a straight forward heist becomes one of the best war films of the Star Wars universe.
This latest outing into the solar system of droids and Stormtroopers has everything needed to move the legacy in the right trajectory. The rare nostalgic elements are carried along by a creative script and a refreshing offering of well-developed characters through the fantastic screenplay of Chris Weitz (About a Boy) and Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Trilogy). Their writing expertise in drama and action cinema makes the jump to light speed and translates well in the realm of science fiction. The character development and realistic warfare provide a depth that has not been seen in this franchise for a very long time. This fresh context gives life to new villains, unforgettable Jedi forces and new levels of comedy while still weaving in connections to the original film that will bring a sentimental grin to the lips of fans from every generation.
Felicity Jones may have been a questionable choice to lead this motley crew, but she proves to be exceptional as Jyn Erso. Her intensity and delivery were understated enough to draw audiences into the story, but believable enough to be captivating in each scene. Luna and Tudyk were the perfect pairing of rebel leadership and Forest Whitaker provides the offbeat nature and intensity needed for the rogue rebel leader, Saw Gerrera. Edwards utilises every component of this phenomenal cast, but the two highlights from this mob were found in the new Empire leader and a blind Jedi. Australian Ben Mendelsohn almost overshadows the reintroduction of Darth Vader as the latest leader of the Empire forces, Director Orson Krennic. He borders on likeable, but delivers the extremely vicious orchestrator of the Death Star. To counter this dark side of the battle, audiences are gifted with one of the best new characters in cinema this year, the blind temple guard and Jedi, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen). He provides the heart of this marauding bunch, while providing some the of funniest moments and best martial arts skills this year.
This relatively unknown director barely makes a misstep capitalising on the talent and the writing with his direction of Rogue One. He provides a perfect blend of the old and the new. Darth Vader is back, but this pales in comparison to the introduction of the new characters. It may not live up to the hype of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it seems to be the film that fans have really been waiting to see.
Reel Dialogue: What are some of the key questions people may ask about this film?
Is this a film for children? The two categories that limit this from all ages would be the violence and adult themes. It is a war-time film and contains a healthy dose of brutality. That being said, in the Star Wars tradition the battles remain relatively bloodless. The other category that may cause parents to hesitate taking their younger children along to Rogue One, adult themes. Without spoiling key plot points, Jyn Erso does lose her parents throughout the film. These may be difficult concepts for children to keep in the realm of fiction.
Does The Force play a major role in this film? Yes, the mystical energy force does play a key role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It is relegated to two characters, but the use of The Force is minimal in comparison to the original franchise. It opens the doors for parents to have a discussion about the spiritual realm and directing children to the real definition of the light a dark sides.
Hope: The central message of the film is based on hope.
Belief that the rebellion will succeed despite the odds. Yet, this hope is empty in comparison to the hope found in God. One of the key components of the Christian faith is hope in this life and in the next, because of the promises of God. Take some time to consider where real hope can be found.
- What does the Bible say about the spiritual realm? (Colossians 1:16, 2:10-15)
- What does the Bible say about family? (John 15:12-17, Exodus 20:12)
- What is the message of hope? (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 12:12, 15:13)
- Can we ever find true justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
WATCH THE TRAILER