Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk and Ben Mendelsohn
“Make ten men feel like one hundred.”
After a long series of hectic weeks, it feels good to be back for unREEL just in time to talk about the first standalone Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The Force is strong with this one, ladies and gents. Those who disagree are, well, not me. I guess other opinions are cool, even if I think they’re reasoning is dumb and unjust.
When word breaks that there is a hidden flaw within the Empire’s latest and most dangerous weapon, the Rebel Alliance organizes a bold mission to steal the building plans and conquer the weapon before the Empire can use it.
Walking into this film, I had a one track mind, of which kept running laps around one singular thought – Rogue One would be the best or worst installment to the franchise, with no chance of it falling in or around the middle of the bunch. Ironically, after seeing the film, I’d indeed rank it closer to the middle than it is to the top or bottom end of the scale. Hitting the nail closer to the head, I may go as far as calling it the third best film in the franchise, falling just shy of 2015’s The Force Awakens, but well behind 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. Essentially, this standalone floats around the same level as 1983’s Return of the Jedi, which most definitely says something of its quality.
Unlike last years focused, rekindling of an installment to the core saga, Gareth Edward’s film is indeed a true-to-the-concept standalone motion picture. Rogue One anchors itself to loose-ends of the fibres woven together by the seven episodes that we all know and love. It does this absolutely beautifully, calling upon just enough nostalgia to satisfy the fans of old, while being original enough as a standalone film to satisfy the casual movie goer. Much closer to the tightness of Monsters than that of Godzilla, Edwards has indeed recovered from the missteps of his last colossal outing.
Much of this can be attributed to the tremendous, albeit relatively unknown to the masses casting found within the picture. Short of Felicity Jones, Forrest Whitaker and, perhaps Mads Mikkelsen (I still don’t think that the masses know who this titan of the acting world is by name alone), the film’s cast falls far closer to obscurity than any film since the original. Sure, The Force Awakens had a complete unknown as the lead, but the core cast was still alive and well within the story. This is an enormous plus for the film, as much as I’m sure it was a challenge for Edwards. That being said, he indeed pulled out some phenomenal performances, especially from the always menacing Ben Mendolsohn, and the master of martial arts, Donnie Yen. With an even focus on the films dark and light side – the most balanced in some time – Edwards and his cast are able to carve out a story that boasts as much fun as it does doom and destruction.
Visually, Rogue One boarders on a sexual experience. Greig Fraser’s talent is as undeniable as the sunrise, adding this visual feast to his already vast resume, of which includes films like Foxcatcher, Killing them Softly and Zero Dark Thirty. With countless frames drawing a resemblance to films like Black Hawk Down and 2001: A Space Odyssey, you can appreciate the level of intensive beauty brought to the table, rather than a slew of pointlessly rendered CGI trash, often the product of the current decade.
Sonically, Matt Wood strikes again, delivering a true to form Star Wars level of mysticism and Sci-Fi wonder. However, the vacancy occupied by Michael Giacchino didn’t quite fill the gaping void felt by the loss of John Williams. Don’t get me wrong, Giacchino’s score was excellent, but it just didn’t have the same gusto, nor presence that Williams’ work had in the core saga. This was incredibly noticeable during the title card moment.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I think it’s finest achievement and my most poignant of praise rests in the handling of iconic villain, Darth Vader, and the recreation of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin. Without spoiling a thing, both were used in the correct dosage, as well as at the right times. They were crucial to the story, ignoring many people’s theory that they were shoehorned in to sell more tickets, though I’m sure that was a pleasant side effect. Plus, you’re a fool to think that the Tarkin CGI was poorly done. Personally, it may be some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen, with the Visual Effects team being so fearlessly confident in their efforts that Edwards was completely fine slotting him in, side by side with countless live-action characters throughout his on-screen moments. Phenomenal work!
Overall, Rogue One is a delightful standalone film, acting somewhat as the sprinkles on an already delicious sundae made of a galaxy far, far away.