Not the next episode of the franchise but instead listed as a Star Wars story, Rogue One tells the story of how the rebel alliance stole the plans to destroy the first Death Star featured in Star Wars: A New Hope.
Directed by British filmmaker Gareth Edwards whose movies have slowly got bigger in terms of budget and scale from Monsters to Godzilla to now the biggest film franchise in history. Edwards is a solid filmmaker big on visual stimulus combined with the small minutiae of characterisation.
Rogue One is a film full of characters ranging from the young girl who grows up vengeful of her mother's murder and father's disappearance; a lack of loyalty is juxtaposed with the need to belong to a group. Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, with the correct blend of feistiness you expect from a rebel but is very on trend at moment with strong independent female roles leading mega-blockbusters.
Jones who is in a hot streak at moment is ably supported by an eclectic and culturally diverse group of rebels from Diego Luna's Cassian Andor the leader of rebellion crew who break Jyn out of jail. On their travel across the galaxy they stop on Juhha, where they encounter Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baze (Wen Jiang) as they combine to escape the clutches of the Empire.
The film is a major spectacle and Star Wars fans will not be disappointed by this first story out of the order of the still ongoing franchise. Edwards has acquited himself well and made a film that is both entertaining and is overtly political, it is not afraid to state the case that all war is futile and costly. This is the cruelest of war films as the people you have fought with and seen fighting for what they believe in all suffer unwelcome ends.
As a film it is not without its flaws, the first twenty minutes are a bit of a grind with the constant jumping from star system to alternative star system is a bit confusing and annoying, coupled with the silly story thread of Forrest Whittaker's role as Saw Gerrera who is a bombastic Caribbean rebel who is old and not that wise, the scenes he appears in are slow and grating especially when his pet space slug attempts to extract information from Riz Ahmed's turncoat pilot.
This is a seriously awful moment that nevertheless does not jump the shark thanks in part to the later scenes with Chirrut and Baze; however, it felt like the filmmakers wanting you to remember this may be a war/spy film but within a science fiction universe.
Ben Mendelsohn a solid performer in Bloodline, gives a good performance as the Director and creator of the Death Star who is feeling shunned by the higher powers and must fight for recognition; in what is essentially limited screen time but sufficient enough for us to boo and hiss him, he conveys enough of a villain with his mere presence alone.
At times it is as if the film wants to be a film that borrows the Star Wars mystique and oeuvre ('I am one with the Force', Darth Vader, Jimmy Smits!) without ever saying we are a Star Wars film.
This reviewer might be nit picking but I was pleased with how the film neatly brought it up to the beginning of A New Hope, especially on the day that Carrie Fisher died. The image of Princess Leia stating hope was both a touching tribute to the legacy her role has been to the cultural landscape and made me want to go home straight away and put on A New Hope.
Personally, I would appreciate more stories such as this rather than the incoming swath of origin movies we will have coming our way in the next five years ranging from Han Solo to Lando to Boba Fett.