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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

The Star Wars saga takes a new path with this film and yet the force is strong with it, even though it changes the dynamic a little bit. Edwards managed to direct a worthy spin-off!

Rogue One Star Wars Banner

Genre: Action/Drama/Sci-Fi

Director: Gareth Edwards

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Genevieve O’Reilly, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Valene, Kane, Alistair Petrie, Jimmy Smits & James Earl Jones.

Run Time: 134 min.

US Release: 16 December 2016

UK Release: 15 December 2016

German Release: 15 December 2016

If you read any of my previous Star Wars reviews during the last year, you should know how big of a fan I am of this franchise and that means that Rogue One was, without a doubt, my most anticipated movie of this year! The Force Awakens did manage to give me new hope for this sci-fi series and I simply couldn’t wait for December to approach earlier this year. I saw the trailers, which looked good and although the massive wave of news about the extensive reshoots worried me, I still went into the cinema with a good feeling. I can now say without a doubt that I really liked Rogue One. It is not perfect and I still prefer The Force Awakens to the first anthology film but it was still a good Star Wars flick.

As stated above, I am a huge fan of the Star Wars saga. My uncle bought me the original trilogy on VHS, as a gift for my sixth birthday and I watched it numerous times until the tapes were worn out. Star Wars is one of the bigger reasons for my fondness for movies and therefore I always have large expectations when it comes to new instalments. Rogue One managed to satisfy most of those expectations!

Jyn Erso (Jones), a criminal sought by the Galactic Empire, is rescued by a group of rebels while being transported to another location. At the rebel base, she meets Mon Mothma (O’Reilly) and rebel agent Cassian Andor (Luna) who give her an ultimatum: Help the rebellion or risk being captured by the Empire. Their mission is to intercept a message from an Empire pilot (Ahmed) that defected and is searching for extremist rebel Saw Gerrera (Whitaker), who has ties to Jyn’s father (Mikkelsen). Along their mission, they obtain support from a blind force-sensitive monk (Yen) and his protector (Jiang).

I’ll get the negatives out of the way first and will start with issues I found in the plot and storytelling of this sci-fi war flick. The pacing during the first two acts is a little slow and can drag at times, especially along the second third of the movie. The beginning takes the viewer to a lot of different locations across the galaxy, as it introduces several characters and while it is interesting to see all those places, it does feel a little disjointed. Last but not least, the atmosphere feels sometimes a little too different to that of a typical Star Wars movie.

What I really liked about the narrative was that it delivers what it promised; a war story taking place during the empire’s grand time. It is dirty, gritty and has a very mature tone. Even though the first two segments of Rogue One are a little slow, they still have an interesting dynamic to them and remind me of a spy movie, as it has a very cloak and dagger appearance. I also like the fact that we got to see a different side of the rebels, proving that not everything is as black and white as the original trilogy made it out to be. The best act of this film, though, is the third and final part, as it gives us a beautifully filmed and choreographed battle in one of the most astonishing locations I have seen. It is as if Star Wars: Battlefronts had come to life and I need to give Disney props on how they let the film end!

The story introduces us to quite a few characters but due to the restricted runtime, it doesn’t have the time to fully explore them. There is no need to, though, as most of the cast do a great job at fleshing out the personas with their fantastic performances, giving them the surprising side-effect of being interesting but dispensable; something that suits this film very well!

The main characters are Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, played by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna respectively. Jones gives a fantastic performance that reflects the tragic past in her role’s personality. Luna gives a good rendition as well; Cassian comes off as dangerous and unsympathetic at first but makes an interesting turn in the third act, redeeming his actions of the past. However, what I most respected about the character's relationship is that, even though they have an undeniable attraction, they don’t follow the clichéd path of romance.

K-2SO is voiced by Alan Tudyk and steals nearly every scene he is in. I love the android and his very dry sarcasm, which caused me to chuckle nearly every time he was on screen. He is the very contrary to C-3PO and an effective ally of the rebellion. Chirrut Imwe, played by Donnie Yen and Baze Malbus, represented by Wen Jiang, are two of the stories' most likeable personas and had fantastic chemistry. Their friendship and respect towards each other feel real and that is partly due to the fantastic acting by Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. Orson Krennic, portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn, is an intriguing villain that represents the bureaucratic side of the Empire but he also comes off as a little too cartoonish at times. He is nevertheless one of the better characters in this movie. While I really like that they brought in the character of Saw Gerrera, from the Clone Wars TV series, I do not like how Forest Whitaker portrays the character, as he overacts and gives Saw an over-the-top and crazy personality.

Cinematography wise this movie is very close to being flawless. I was in constant awe as all these images rushed through the screen because Edwards, as well as director of photography Greig Fraser, did an extraordinary job at bringing this universe to life. The practical effects look great and most of the CGI is beautiful to look at, especially when it came to the destructive power of the Death Star or the realistic-looking size of different objects and vehicles. There are two characters, however, that are fully motion-captured and do not look as good as I wished for and therefore distracted me from the story. That said, I do love the camera work and how they reused old stock footage from the X-wing dogfights, integrating them into this new film.

One of the bigger issues I have with this Star Wars anthology film was the music composed by Michael Giacchino who, although only having four weeks and a bit, managed to compose a terrific soundtrack but one that doesn’t really suit this universe. What the score is missing is an epic grandness to it that I will remember it by through the years.


Verdict: Rogue One a Star Wars Story is the type of movie I would have wished the prequels had been. It is dirty, gritty and has some good dark moments in it, and while it mostly feels like a Star Wars movie it also manages to bring in some fresh air and change the tone a little bit. It doesn't always work, as it sometimes appears to set apart itself too much from the typical atmosphere of the franchise and that manages to distract the audience at times. The two first acts, while interesting do drag a little bit and move too slow, but it redeems those flaws in the third act, which gives the viewers an action-filled battle that they have never seen before. Stock footage from the original trilogy is used for some of the dogfights in space, a fantastic fan service that ties this movie to the original trilogy and I simply love the ending. The characters are all strong and intriguing, especially K-2SO and Krennic but could have easily been exchanged. I like nearly every aspect of Rogue One, especially the cinematography and effects and will, therefore, give it an 8.0 out of 10.

As always, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of this first spin-off in the Star Wars cinematic universe. If you are interested, please find my other Star Wars reviews listed below.

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