If ‘The Force Awakens’ was a film “for the fans” after the disappointments of the Star Wars prequels, then ‘Rogue One’ is another film for the fans but this time its the fans from 1977. If you’re an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ kind of girl or guy, then this movie is for you because ‘Rogue One’ is dark. Very dark.
Eschewing the conventions of all other Star Wars movies, ‘Rogue One’ is a real departure. Gone are the republic serials conventions that have stylised the franchise so far. Say goodbye to the whimsy and buccaneer charms of the previous movies because ‘Rogue One’ is all about rebellion and what it costs to be involved in one. If you’re looking for cuddly toy characters and merchandising opportunities then this isn’t your film (which makes it all the more brave, coming from Disney).
If you've been watching 'Star Wars' since 1977 then prepare to be rewarded with Gareth Edwards's attention to detail.
When the self-referencing nods come, one or two feel strangely bolted-on. It’s as if ‘Rogue One’s’ theatrical cut has been littered with a few must-have characters in the background and whilst nostalgic, they don’t move the plot forward. However there are many more subtler, more intentional insertions of side characters that do appear towards the end which lends Rogue One a genuine easter-egg appeal. If you’ve been watching ‘Star Wars’ since 1977 then prepare to be rewarded with Gareth Edwards’s attention to detail. The effects are amazing and yet also refreshingly grounded. ‘Rogue One’ understands it’s place in the Star Wars timeline as an appetiser to ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’, but it resolutely refuses to be a cut and paste addition to the canon, boasting stronger characters and deeper notions of sacrifice.
So now looking across the fence now at ‘The Force Awakens’, J. J. Abram’s film feels strangely saccharine in comparison to ‘Rogue One’ – which is defiantly sour. The acting on display reflects this. Felicity Jones is impressively better than the trailers suggest and Donnie Yen’s performance really stands out amongst a rich cast of characters you’d like to see so much more of. Heading up the empire’s side, the wattage and glare of Ben Mendelsohn’s expression levels everything in it’s path and definitely gives ‘Star War’s’ more seasoned villiains a run for their money.
In the end, ‘Rogue One’ might seem like a dour relative to ‘Star War’s’ sparkly, happy-to-please siblings but it demands to be taken on its own terms. This is a mature film that refuses to go quietly into the night and by sticking to its blasters it might yet have broken the yoke of similarity that ensnared all the previous prequels and sequels.
In short, the force is strong with this one and the rebellion is in good hands.