Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Review #1,386

Director:  Gareth Edwards
Cast:  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen
Plot:  The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Awards:  Nom. for 2 Oscars - Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects
Runtime:  133min
Rating:  PG for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Distributor: Distributor  Walt Disney Studios

“We have hope.  Rebellions are built on hope!”

Michael Giacchino passes his final test as the contemporary heir to the legendary John Williams with an adept score to his first ‘Star Wars’ movie.  Capturing the ‘Star Wars’ sound as it were, the versatile composer recalls the orchestral intricacy of Williams’ arrangements with a modern touch that has characterised some of his latest music for blockbusters such as Super 8 (2011), Jurassic World (2015) and the new ‘Star Trek’ series (2009, 2013 & 2016). 

Interestingly, director Gareth Edwards initially picked Alexandre Desplat (whom he worked with in Godzilla (2014)), a composer I respect deeply, but his style, on second thought, wouldn’t have been a hand-to-glove fit. 

Edwards shows that he is the correct, though not perfect choice, to helm Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  It is certainly a capable, even refreshing, entry into the canon.  Its narrative and characters don’t feel like they are recycled manifestations of the franchise’s archetypes, though the film’s thematic concerns remain the same. 

Situated in between Revenge of the Sith (2005) and A New Hope (1977) as a standalone story sharing the same universe, Rogue One centers on a team of rebels fighting for the Rebellion against the tyrannical Empire.  Their job is a suicidal one: to attempt to steal the structural plans for the Death Star, a planet-killing weapon of mass destruction that the Empire has no qualms in using to reinforce their iron-fisted rule over the galaxy. 

The ensemble cast of new faces does a pretty good job, in particular Felicity Jones (continuing the female renaissance left by Daisy Ridley’s Rey).  While most, if not all, of the characters are likely to fall short of being truly iconic, they are a bunch that will resonate most with the hard-core fans of the franchise.  Their belief in hope and their willingness to fight for the good cause shines brightly in what is a bleak film that doesn’t quite have enough humour (K-2SO bears that very burden). 

The action sequences and visual effects are excellent, be it ground or space battles, though some scenes are marred by a few way-too-convenient leaps of logic.  Rogue One ultimately doesn’t come close to the highs of the franchise, and why should it be?  After all, it is meant to whet the appetite of fans as they are temporarily relived of the anticipation for the next ‘Episode’ in 2017.  At least, no huge expectations have been set in any way.

Verdict:  Certainly a capable, even refreshing, entry into the ‘Star Wars’ canon, though it doesn’t come close to the highs of the franchise.


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