Reviewing: Rogue One

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I am a sucker for movies with strong, female protagonists. I’m sure this is no surprise to anyone. But, I think it is one of the main reasons why I am such a big fan of the new Star Wars movies that have been released so far, especially Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The latest installment in the Star Wars franchise takes us back in time to the beginning of the rebellion against the Empire, which is finishing the construction of it’s ultimate weapon: the Death Star. We meet Galen Urso, a former Empire engineer, and his family who are hiding from the dictatorship. When Galen is forced back into service, his daughter Jyn is taken in by renowned rebel Saw Gerrera. Later, when the Rebel Army discovers her existence, they seek to use her as a way to gain information about the Empire and it’s weapon.

First of all, I saw this movie two times and the first time, I didn’t really know what to expect and I didn’t realize that this film was supposed to take us back in time. I had assumed it was following the new story line until my husband told me that Rogue One was basically a fan-service film to buy time for the next installment in the Skywalker narrative.

My first impressions of the film were exactly this: excellent. It seems as though Disney took all of the criticisms and problems fans had with The Force Awakens and tweaked their production to create a film that fits almost seamlessly into the original Star Wars saga in both style and tone. While I enjoyed The Force Awakens immensely, there were things about it that just reeked of Disney production: misplaced humor, over-the-top dramatics and, generally, just playing it safe.

Rogue One just feels like Star Wars. The hand of the Empire and the danger faced by the Rebel Army is heavily felt throughout the film — I really got the sense of what the characters were risking and why it is so important that they complete their mission at all costs. This is reinforced when we get to see the Death Star in action and we get to see what that really means, up close and personal.

Jyn Urso, our strong female protagonist, is distrusting and independent who has used her tragic and complicated past as a motivation to survive in an Empire universe. But her soft spot remains with her father, which preserves the theme of family love and conflict prevalent throughout the series. Jyn is a wonderful character that presents a bit of a roadblock for the Rebel Army and added another layer of adversity to the plot, which I enjoyed.

The relationship between Jyn and Cassian reminded me a lot of the camaraderie formed in the original movies, like when Luke and Han meed up with Leia. While Jyn originally forms the “not my problem” mentality, she comes to care for the cause and the people fighting for it, including her long-lost father. K-2 also reminded me more of the droids we were originally introduced to in the original films, and I really enjoyed that he was the main source of humor int he film — he was not kitschy or off-hand the way the humor was in The Force Awakens. It was perfectly timed along with comments from Chirrut, who was one of my favorite characters.

Although, Chirrut and Baze seemed like a strange attempt at bringing the myth of the Jedi back into the fold of the story. And the idea of the Force does slightly come into play while also fading into the background of the plot. However, it does help the story flow into episode four where the idea of Jedi and the Force are not apparent until the later in the story, when they come back in full force. And although the two seem to be a strange addition, I did enjoy their part in the story.

Here’s the thing about this film: the character development and the way their relationships with each other grow is so nuanced that you find yourself drawn in, rooting for the Rebel Army (the way we always do) and fighting what you know is inevitable. Yet, when the end comes, you are left with the overarching theme of the entire franchise: hope. I won’t spoil it, but the end hurt my heart in the best way possible.

The only problem I had with this film is that the beginning is a bit hard to follow. We are jumping around so much that you don’t know which story we are actually going to fall on when the story begins to follow a normal narrative. Therefore, I would recommend giving it two watches just to fully absorb the film (and to find the Star Wars easter eggs you might have missed the first time around.)

For our second time, we decided to marathon the entire series, starting with episode one, all the way to episode seven. And, I have to say, Rogue One helped add some continuity to the entire series. For example, the film helped me reconcile Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader in my mind as one, instead of two separate people. And, I have to say, the experience has made me into a “hard-core” Star Wars fan, according to my husband. Therefore, I highly recommend marathoning the series, including Rogue One.

I think it goes without saying that Rogue One is a must-see for Star Wars fans, but it is also for those striving to understand more about the Star Wars universe. I just hope that the next installments stay with the tone and style of Rogue One instead of returning to the conventional Disney safety zone.

What did you think of Rogue One? How do you think Rogue One fits into the series? Do you think Disney’s new direction is good or bad for the franchise? What are you expecting or hoping for in episode eight? Should Disney make more fan-service films for the Star Wars franchise? Let’s talk.

 

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