The concept of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a simple one, who were the Rebel spies that stole the plans for the Death Star?
The film follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of the scientist behind the Death Star’s super laser, as she helps the Rebellion investigate the rumours of the Death Star’s existence and find a way to destroy it. Along the way we meet a large ensemble cast that will make up the Rogue One team; Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a rebel spy and K2-SO (Alan Tudyk), his re-programed Imperial Droid, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and Chirrut Imway (Donnie Yen), two former Guardians of the Whills (protectors of the Church of the Force) and Bodie Rhook (Riz Ahmed), an Imperial pilot who has defected to deliver secrets from the Empire.
The cast is supported by Rebel Alliance Members; General Draven (Alistair Petrie), Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), Bail Organa (Jimmy Smitts) and Extremist Rebel – Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). While the primary antagonist Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is supported by other Imperial members, Governor Tarkin (Guy Henry with facial enhancements to look like Peter Cushing), Jyn’s Father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and Darth Vader (voiced again by James Earl Jones). The film boasted such an enormous cast and everyone got their time in the spotlight which is a testament to the good writing, directing and editing.
The film captures the essence of the original Star Wars films. The seriousness of the threat of the Empire combined with the focus on every-day characters that are just trying to survive in this rich galaxy. The space battle towards the end of the film is just incredible and harks back (or forwards in viewing order) to the battle of Yavin and the assault on the Death Star in A New Hope. The addition of archival footage from cut scenes from the original also help to tie in the film to the universe. Rogue One is the brain child of John Knoll the Chief of Industrial Light and Magic so the film benefited from being a passion project to the team. The visual effects in this film make the world feel as real to us in this modern age as it did to the fans in 1977. The digital rendering of Governor Tarkin did take me out of the film only slightly but the work done on Princess Leia for the brief time you see her is stunning. ILM is truly at the forefront of this technology and with them we will enter the uncanny valley in no time.
Gareth Edwards directed most of this film, with parts being retooled by Tony Gilroy (this could be seen as the start of Lucasfilm’s problems with not getting what they want from their directors) but the end product is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars cannon. There was a significant change to the films ending due to the director and the producers worries about weather Disney would approve of an ending where all the characters die (sorry, spoilers), as we don’t see any of them in the films after this. Eventually word came down from Disney that they were ok with that kind of ending and specific elements were reshot. You can find parts of this alternate ending and, in fact, other parts of cut footage and dialogue in the trailers for the film. Which ended up showing the feel of the film rather than what ended up in the final film. Misleading, yes, but in the long run not the worst decision.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a wonderful film and I hope sets a precedent for other Star Wars anthology films to take risks and tell stories surrounding the saga films. Star Wars is a big universe and the more we can get from these films the better.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Above Average