“The Light Side” – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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A review of the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. *Spoiler alert!* Please note, details of the plot are revealed in this article that may ruin the film if you have not yet seen it.

 

I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars saga for the entirety of my adult life. Growing up, my bookshelves were lined with novels from the expanded Star Wars universe and are probably the reason I study English Literature, which I know is pretty sad. I even remember my Mum waking me up at the crack of dawn to take me into town to buy a hardback copy of the newest novel. It was a childhood interest that I grew up with, and it bordered on fanaticism.

So I went to go and see Rogue One. As a long established fan I made a conscious effort not to buy too much into the extraordinary hype, and I was rewarded for not doing so. I watched the film, I laughed, nearly cried (a couple of times), and after mulling it over I made a decision about it. Rogue One is a ‘good’ film! Better than the calamitous Episodes I and II, and sits just below Episode III (Ewan McGregor, what a babe) in my 100% objective ranking of the saga so far.

What did I enjoy about the film? It’s situated in a nice spot within the existing canon, a kind of mid-quel to fill the gaps between Episodes III and IV. This mid-quel status takes away the daunting responsibility from the viewer to have seen all of the previous films and know them inside out. Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve seen the films you’ll be rewarded and find it a more enjoyable experience, but it’s not a necessity. Rogue One’s over-indulgent action sequences and often cheesy one-liners allow it to appeal to a younger, fresh, new generation of fans, and it serves as a decent entry point to the saga for potential first time viewers. The new characters are warm and likeable, with Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang’s powerful and friendly double-act having me close to tears when their poignant final moments take place. *Spoiler alert, sorry*. And it’s a film with a message, a fairly generic one, but a message nonetheless. The desolation the Death Star leaves in its wake is no longer reduced to a crude model of a planet blowing up, a la Episode IV. Instead, we can see entire cities reduced to absolute nothingness. The advancements in CGI really do an amazing job of portraying the horrors of nuclear war, and really ups the stakes for the characters involved. If the rest of the films were re-made with the spectacular effects Rogue One implements, I would watch them all, back-to-back, no toilet breaks.

Image courtesy of starwars.com
Image courtesy of starwars.com

And for existing fans, it’s got everything you’ve come to expect from a Star Wars film. All the archetypical character types, all the mysticism surrounding The Force, and Alexandre Desplat’s musical score is so reminiscent of John Williams’ original trilogy it’ll fill you with that beautifully warm feeling of nostalgia right from the opening scenes. There’s also not one single reference to Jar Jar Binks, which I thought was great and automatically boosted the films score by a fair few points. Instead, the comic relief is largely handled by K-2SO, whose deadpan utterances had me laughing at many points throughout. And there was no Jar Jar Binks! I’m mentioning it again. Rogue One is a film, a Star Wars film, that DOES NOT feature Jar Jar Binks, they’ve clearly learned from the tragic mistakes of the past…

There’s plenty of fan service and throw backs to the existing films in there too. A couple of breathtaking scenes featuring Darth Vader delivering the iconic lightsabre action sequences that we’ve come to expect, and C-3P0 and R2-D2 even make a brief cameo appearance, eliciting a weirdly powerful emotional reaction for only one line of dialogue. However, Rogue One doesn’t rely on this fan service to carry the film, it works perfectly well as a stand-alone cinematic event.

Rogue One isn’t just a big film; it’s a big film that’s tied to a franchise that has become a huge cultural phenomenon, just look at Episode VII. Sadly, these films cannot escape the perpetual Hollywood machine that generates masses of hype s always incredibly difficult to live up to, and a let of people were left disappointed. As a film, Rogue One is loud, it’s brash, the action is gloriously over the top and the plot predictable. But it’s a good Star Wars film; it managed to survive all the hype swirling around it and delivered an enjoyable cinema experience for veterans of the series, as well as newcomers. I’d definitely recommend you see it, whether you’ve been a fan for a long time, or if you don’t care about Star Wars at all.

I’d probably go as far to say that I’d take my Mum to see it. Maybe treat her after all those hardback books she bought me whilst growing up…

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