The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Jimmy Smits
Rated: PG-13 (extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action)
By Matt Greene
Rogue One is a YouTube fan-fic film with a budget. That’s not (totally) dismissive; fans are often so invested as to not want to screw up what they love. Generally, director / fan Edwards and crew have brought this first “Star Wars” spinoff by giving us what we love. It’s a fully lived-in world, set on cool new planets, starring a group scrappy rabble-rousers partnered with a funny droid, and plotted to answer questions we have about the larger legend.
Through all this, we are given some pretty fantastic star wars. So why is it below the best of the series? Because an action-packed, franchise-filling second half has to carry a humdrum first half.
In both quality and genre, it’s most similar to 1983’s Return of the Jedi, a covert-operation used to battle the establishment. Taking place directly before 1977’s Star Wars, this group of rebels is led by Jyn Urso (Jones) must steal the structural plans for the Death Star to learn its weaknesses. Visually faithful to the original trilogy, it fits nicely into its place. Edwards (Godzilla) continues to broadcast his skill for giant but coherent action, both in the epic destruction and the hand-to-hand combat (a martial-arts-focused jedi, a crowd-pleasing, effectively scary Vader scene).
Otherwise, there are some issues. While Jyn has some nice motivations and stakes, much of the characters feel less like people and more like ways to push the plot. The dialogue is dull, the beats are predictable, the emotions are shallow, and the fan service is often egregious.
At the end of the day, however, the building it does on the lore of “Star Wars” is believable and engaging to warrant seeing more from these spinoffs.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
By Cole Schneider
The first “Star Wars Story” without an episode number follows a group of Rebels as they steal the plans for the Empire’s new weapon, the Death Star, which would later be destroyed by a kid named Luke in a little-seen 1977 gem called “Star Wars”. “Rogue One” is the big event between the two trilogies, a sort of Episode 3 ½.
It’s also the second Star Wars film in the Disney era after last year’s “Episode VII”, a film I was far lower on than most. Chief among my complaints was how the film fumbled its characters by constantly having them make decisions incongruous with the preceding action and information. It disguised those many nonsensical choices with a fast plot and well-timed jokes to properly distract us.
Where “Episode VII” gave us characters without coherent psychologies, “Rogue One” has a different character sin: its characters don’t change. There’s really only one act break in the entire film so while the characters do have a coherent psychology we can track, it’s not one of great interest over a 2+ hour span.
Where “Episode VII” tried to keep its plot moving at a clip fast enough that we wouldn’t notice its flaws, “Rogue One” makes us sit through a story where very little of interest happens. It’s more honest than “Episode VII”, but it’s not much better.
Even the film’s second half, which really is a rousing cinematic battle that channels WW2 films like “Saving Private Ryan” (the handheld camera, the darker color palette, the Normandy-esque setting) doesn’t have the weight it should have because we haven’t really journeyed anywhere with the people. It’s all static.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars