Film Review: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Is an Arresting New Chapter for Fans and Newcomers to Relish


The “Star Wars” universe is a world of endless possibilities about what stories you can explore, with an unprecedented amount of quality thematic elements that can be examined. With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” Lucas Films and Walt Disney Pictures have started the analyzing elements of looking at different ways to tell the stories of some of our most beloved characters, while introducing new ones. Gareth Edwards‘ firm direction, in partnership with Greig Fraser‘s stunning cinematography, makes for a lavish and intense new chapter in the “Star Wars” mythology.

The first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes that band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.

Boasting an impressive cast that is led by Academy Award nominee Felicity Jones, it is one of the film’s best attributes. Diversity in film has been called upon by every corner of the cinematic community and “Star Wars,” Lucas Films, and Walt Disney do not get enough credit in being of the first to fully embrace this notion into its most profitable franchise. As Jyn Erso, Jones leads with intensity, delivering a near heartbreaking interpretation of the most unlikely hero.

Of the players, the fanboys of the universe will scream the names of Chirru Imwe, played exquisitely by Donnie Yen, or K-2SO, played with spunk by Alan Tudyk. You’ll have your fill with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), whose stern presence isn’t always a standout, but Bodhi Rook (played by Riz Ahmed) seems like a spirit animal of Poe from “The Force Awakens.”

Villains here have no shortage of complexities, as Ben Mendelsohn‘s Orson Krennic is sensational, given alongside some other “amazing” surprises. I’ll leave them for you to experience yourself.

Technically speaking, this is one of the franchise’s most vivacious productions. The aforementioned Greig Fraser delivers grit and action in his abilities to capture them with the lens. John Gilroy, Colin Goudie and Jabez Olssen cut the film to an impeccable action-adventure that stands toe-to-toe with anything delivered in 2016.

Having big shoes to fill in John Williams’ illustrious classic score, Michael Giacchino rises to the occasion and then some with his compositions. It’s one of the year’s best works. Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont’s production design opens the doors to a new world that doesn’t feel too familiar or too standard for the average fan.

“Star Wars” is only as good as its story and script. Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll and Gary Whitta lay the foundation down for an alluring tale. On paper, hearing about how the rebels acquire the Death Star plans is not particularly compelling cinema that we are running to see, but this group accepts the challenge. With the exception of some shoehorned entries of new and classic characters, “Rogue One” finds its balance in presenting this world to an avid die-hard fan and a casual movie-goer that is walking into this universe for the very first time.

Early reports of a “darker” and “more gritty” film have been around for months. We definitely have that here, but the insert of comedic beats often feel inserted so the audience can feel some joy in this tragic tale. It’s safe to say that we are more than prepared for a devastation story that wrecks the minds of viewers everywhere – perhaps with “Episode VIII?”

Here is the main takeaway: this film has perhaps the best Darth Vader scene in franchise history. Let’s talk about it in the comments after you see it.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” successfully achieves everything it sets out to do. Action-packed and glorious in its engaging and oftentimes exotic dimensions of storytelling, it is absolutely stirring. Fans will be overjoyed and it becomes another classic chapter that we will be able to revisit in a weekend-long marathon somewhere in a galaxy…far, far away.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures and opens in theaters on Dec. 16.

GRADE: (★★★½)