Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) directed by Gareth Edwards

The Empire is looking for one good man, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), to finish designing their ultimate tool to dominate the galaxy. They hunt him down on an obscure planet where he hides out as a farmer. His young daughter Jyn Erso manages to hide as her father is hauled off to complete the Death Star. She's discovered by family friend Saw Gerrera (Forest Whittaker) who raises her. Saw is an extremist rebel against the Empire, so when the story jumps forward fifteen years or so, things only get worse for Jyn. She's ashamed of what her father is doing and she's been in hiding in case someone wants to use her to blackmail her father. She's brought out of hiding when the Rebels discover Galen may be introducing a fundamental flaw into the Death Star so that it may be destroyed. In order to verify the information, a long chain of contacts are established. When the information is confirmed, a small group gathers around Jyn to steal the plans for the Death Star from the Imperial Archive. Can such a bold plan succeed?

The story is a bit complicated in many ways. The Rebellion isn't a very unified group, always debating plans and being sometimes overly cautious in acting. The Empire itself has some political intrigue that is basically shut down by the strong arm of those at the top (i.e., Darth Vader and the Emperor). The mission to verify the information is also full of dark moments and differing agendas, occasionally pitting the heroes against one another. The moral complexity is very gray for a Star Wars film, which I found a refreshing change.

The action sequences are very exciting, especially since enough time is spent on the characters to make them sympathetic. The battles seem much more like World War II combat than interstellar fantasy combat both in the violence and the body count. And the deaths aren't just bad guys. There's more than just one token good guy killed (which is to be expected if you've seen the massive spoiler film called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). The tone is definitely dark for a Star Wars film, but it is not too dark.

I'd rank this number three behind Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope in the Star Wars movie rankings. Maybe this movie would be number two but one CGI character is too much a resident of the Uncanny Valley, becoming very distracting, and the movie has a lot of easter eggs, perhaps too many like in The Force Awakens.

Highly recommended!

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