If Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was Disney paying its respect to the previous Star Wars films of the 20th Century, then Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the 21st century boldly claiming the series. Despite the attempts at humour – and there were plenty of cracking one-liners and comic relief characters (including, weirdly, Darth Vader) – this film definitely is the darkest of the Star Wars films to date. It was also really good, even if the 21st Century definitely is different in style to the 20th.
And the 21st Century is much bleaker than the 20th.
This is not to say that Rogue One is bad. The bleakness is very good, and it puts both Episode III and Episode IV in a new light. The darkness is quite at odds with the majority of the other Star Wars stories (with the exception of Episode III, and even then, it is much darker than that story), and it makes the “hope” in A New Hope much more optimistic. The evils of the Empire (which interestingly has changed somewhat from the Nazi imagery into something a little more akin to general brutal militarised dictatorship) are much more apparent (the inhuman and detached horrors of the Death Star and military occupation are very apparent).
Despite all this doom and gloom, attempts at humour were made. The first half of the film was filled with plenty of one liners – a sarcastic droid providing most of them. Quite possibly one of the strangest attempts at humour was Darth Vader making a bad pun whilst force-choking someone. Although there will be no spoilers, the plot itself is interesting enough to stay interesting, whilst not overly chaotic as to be convoluted. The film actually started a little weak – the plots seemed to be a little bit contrived, and it seemed to rush a little bit. However, after the halfway mark, it really got into gear. And there is enough explosions and dialogue to keep everyone happy.
The acting and characters were superb. Very human and relatable (even the sarcastic robot), all of them are acted superbly. The diverse cast is always a good sign – well done Disney for that – and all the cast pull off their roles really well. You can empathise with Jyn’s (Felicity Jones) cynicism at political idealism, the jaded weariness of Cassian (Deigo Luna) who rediscovers his humanity, or the wonderful relationship between Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baze (Jiang Wen). Even the primary villain, Director Krinnic (Ben Mendelsohn) is understandable, and even at times moderately sympathetic (until you remember how vile he is).
Several great things about this film was the ease which characters from A New Hope are incorporated. Governor Tarkin, the villain from A New Hope, makes several appearances – very impressive considering Peter Cushing has been dead for several years. Some minor characters make appearances as well, and other main characters from the original trilogy make excellent cameos. Even with this film being Disney’s first “real” Star Wars film, there were plenty of salutes to Lucas’ films, which was a nice touch. It’s very enjoyable movie, and very much a must-see for any Star Wars fan. Or indeed anyone who likes good movies.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out NOW. Why haven’t you seen it yet?
Editor’s Disclaimer – Consider this an initial review. As the hype dies down and we spend more of our hot summer days in the cinema or lounging around at home, it’s pretty likely that more of the writers here at Popculture-y will have more thoughts about Rogue One and its reasonably likely that we will commit those thoughts to paper and then type them up and put them on the internet so that you can read them.