Okay, I am just going to say it. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is arguably the best Star Wars Movie ever made.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm, one of the promised blessings was that there was going to be a new Star Wars trilogy. I was so excited for another round of movies every two years. Then it was announced that there would be single-story Star Wars films released between each of the episodes. A new Star Wars film every year!
Rouge One is the prequel to the very first Star Wars movie. It is basically the story of the opening crawl of the original Star Wars Film: A New Hope. It tells the thrilling story of how a band of freedom fighters worked together to steal the Death Star’s secret blueprints.
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I loved this movie. Any honest Star Wars fan will tell you that the Star Wars films have been mired in problems. Jar Jar Binks, Luke kissing his sister, cry baby Anakin, Force Awakens being a rip off of a New Hope. Rouge One has done an amazing job of making itself stand apart from all of that.
The action and special effects are amazing. On the ground, we get full-scale battles and minor skirmishes that put you right into the action. Things happen so fast and you are dropped right into the center of it. When we take to space we see the best Star Wars space battle since Return of the Jedi. The aerial combat follows ships through runs on Star Destroyers, air support for ground troops, and overwhelming swarms of tie fighters. One of the coolest shots is a virtual mounted camera on an X-Wing as it engages in the fray.
Director Gareth Edwards follows JJ Abrams in trying to use practical effects as much as possible when shooting action scenes, but also in bringing the alien creatures of this galaxy to life. My son’s big request was that he wanted a funny robot. He got that in K-2SO. He is a fully realized droid companion to the crew. Every moment his is on the screen is gold with his passive aggressive tone and devil may care attitude.
The one thing that is a bit lacking in Rouge One is Character development. Most of the characters at the end of the film remain unchanged from who they were at the beginning. The one exception to that is Cassian Andor played by Diego Luna, but more on that later. Rouge One has a bit of an ensemble cast. In most Star Wars Movies the story revolves around three characters who are all but invincible. Rouge One really challenges this safety because this story happens in past of our timeline, yet none of our characters are mentioned in future movies. We all knew Anakin and Obi-wan were safe in the Prequels, we don’t have that here, and it adds to the stakes because no one is safe.
One of the great touch points of the movies were the easter eggs and nods to the greater Star Wars Universe. There are a lot of cameos from characters in the other films. In fact the finale takes us right up to just a few moments before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. As a Star Wars fan, it was a lot of fun to see some of my favorites show up.
I do want to add some caution. Star Wars released a lot of footage of Rouge One in their trailers. But they also spent the Summer doing some reshoots. As a result, some scenes in the trailer are either missing from the movie or totally changed. It leads to a lot of surprises in the film.
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I rolled the dice and took my kids to see the movie. It is PG-13, but there is not anything in this film that you have not seen in the other Star Wars Films. No cursing (not even PG curses) and no sexual content. There is fighting and people are killed, some in a very personal manner.
The overall message of Rouge One is the theme of redemption and of hope. This is right on point with the Star Wars Universe. This movie shows a lot of the gritty realities of war. We see the dark side of the Rebellion. They aren’t just freedom fighters, they are quasi-terrorists. Cassian isn’t just a soldier, he is in intelligence. (Think CIA) He has done some things that really deplorable. His motivation in this film is redemption.
Overall though the focus is Hope. There is a great quote is episode 7. “As long as there is light, there is Hope.” In the face of insurmountable odds, our heroes hold on to hope. “Rebellions are built on hope.”
If you want to get the back story on Galen and Jyn Erso and their relationship to Orson Crenic you should check out Catalyst. Catalyst is a novel that covers the time near the end of the Clone Years to the development of the Death Star by the Empire. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.
I just finished the audiobook of Catalyst and it really helped to flesh out the characters of Galen and Orson in the film. If you want to get some of that history of the construction of the Death Star, read Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel. Available Now at Amazon.