Rogue One: a Star Wars Story is a movie far different that anything that has ever been released under the lucasfilm name. It is completely devoid of a crawl at the beginning for one thing; Instead it starts with a concussive sforzando of the score, and space flashes onto the screen, as if to say, “Here it is, what else did you expect?” I love those bold yellow words as much as the next guy, they function as a call to adventure, an invitation to a place far different from anything the viewer is used to. But Rogue One is different: it’s a lot less
adventurous and far more familiar than the galaxy far far away has ever been. I mean this in the most complimentary way possible; this is a film that puts the War in “Star Wars” in an acute fashion.
Rogue One’s main strength is its action. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, it features the best action the franchise has to offer. Before you cry “Blasphemy!” and slam the computer shut in rage, allow me to explain myself. The battle of the death star in Return of the Jedi is probably the original trilogy’s best space combat. It provides a vigorous depiction of spacial warfare, displaying the speed and chaos of ship to ship combat. It is, however, fettered by the primitivity of early 1980s special effects. The Force Awakens brought to the table modern effects, but was fairly unexciting to watch due to its being a near carbon copy of the battle in IV. The battle that serves as Rogue One’s climax is an all-new concept. Things like planetary shield gates, message transmissions, and ramming ships are brought in the picture. Aided by 15 or so visual effects companies Disney recruited, it looks
considerably excellent as well.
Many aspects of A New Hope are also addressed. The conveniently placed exhaust port is no longer a shoehorned plot device, but a final act of revenge by a defecting engineer. Tarkin isn’t a Grand Moff but a lowly Governor, and we get to witness his ascension to power firsthand.
Darth Vader also plays a fairly major role in the film. Many have criticized Edwards for his habitation of barely three scenes, but really, this makes them special. Lack of cinematic appearance for the last 34 years makes it that much more exciting. I struggled in containing my excitement when I heard that mechanical rasp coming out of the pitch black hallway of the rebel cruiser in the last scene. After all those warnings about cell phones, I figured a boisterous scream of childlike glee would probably be frowned upon in the establishment. When Vader’s crimson blade appeared, spreading the faces of the trembling rebel soldiers and the hallway of that ship in rufescent, evil glow, I was actually shaking with anticipation. Vader precedes to hurl himself upon the hapless rebels with wieldy might. The rebels rush back, handing off the sought after plans from man to man, as Vader slashes, chokes, and tosses through their ranks with ease. In a moment of perfection, the trooper hands off his precious cargo to a CG Princess Leia. “What did they bring us?” he says. “Hope” she replies. Needless to say, I almost cried.
As I exited the theater, barely keeping my balance after listening to Giacchino’s brilliant overture, I overheard a woman talking with dissatisfaction about the movie: “I guess it was good, it was kind of depressing though. I mean, they all died, right?”
“WRONG!” I wanted to scream.
Yes, they all die, but in a blaze of glory. Each character receives the fitting end that I only wish Han Solo had been given. Countless rebel giants fall, fighting for their cause. Bohdie the pilot dies wiring an antenna, Baze Malbus dies fighting with newfound acceptance of the force, and Cassian and Jyn die having passed on the death star plans. While nothing else can ever fill the place the original trilogy holds in my heart, I must admit no other Star Wars film has ever portrayed, at least this powerfully, the theme of sacrifice, and how it can pave the way for a new hope