It feels like yesterday when I was walking into my local cinema to see The Force Awakens, sporting a suitably themed t-shirt with lofty expectations and high hopes. Thanks to the Force (and, of course, the brilliant folks behind the film), it was a truly great cinematic experience. However, when it comes to movies I really look forward to, I’m often left disappointed, and seeing as my luck has been almost non-existent for the past two years, I figured it had run out with the home-run that was TFA. Thankfully, I’ve been proven wrong.
I didn’t see Rogue One at the midnight screening with those that snagged a ticket (I’ve been chastising my past self for not booking on time ever since), but I did see it the day after. First and foremost, it was almost nothing like the trailers and teasers suggested. In fact, I can’t recall another movie that changed so much from clips to screen. In saying that, I just want to take this opportunity to thank all the gods that Felicity Jones‘ terrible “I rebel” line didn’t make the final cut.
Although the movie was quite different to what I expected in terms of Jyn Erso’s character, I think it benefited from the change in direction. In the teasers, a lot was hinted about Jyn’s dodgy past, but besides the scenes of her childhood, in the movie there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on the supposedly “reckless, aggressive and undisciplined” things Jyn had done. By the time she learned the truth about her father, I had warmed up to Jones‘ portrayal of her and really started to like her with her newfound cause and determination, but at the beginning I found her acting a little wooden. I see now that it was the kind of careful, reluctant character she was trying to create, but it felt a little off at first.
The movie’s bleak, sombre tone felt very jarring to fans who are used to there being some semblance of balance, a glimmer of hope like in other Star Wars episodes. This is one change from format that I really loved. It gave us a sense of the desperation and dread felt by all those trying to oppose the Empire and its reach. By the third act, we see that hope has been recovered and that the Alliance are holding onto it with both hands as they chance their luck at a last ditch attempt to seize the first Death Star’s plans.
One of the most satisfying things about the movie was the plot hole plugging. I think all of us at some point – even the super fans among us – have conceded that the coincidental placement of an exhaust port that could destroy the entire Death Star was just a little hard to believe. Finally, we have a reason for its existence, and it is a believable one, in my opinion. I don’t think any other explanation would’ve been quite as good as the simplicity of an inside job.
There were real gems in this movie among what I would consider some unnecessary debris at times. One of these highlights was the stunning CGI reconstruction of Star Wars veteran Peter Cushing as Tarkin. The actor who stood in for him, Guy Henry, acted the part well with images altered in post-production. The detail really was incredible. The CGI Leia (Ingvild Deila) at the very end of the film, however, wasn’t quite as good. Perhaps it was the difference in lighting, but you had to strain to see that Tarkin wasn’t a real person, but Leia was quite obviously computer generated. Regardless, both were impressive feats.
Other major highlights were the scenes with Darth Vader, beginning with the shots of his maimed body rising from the Imperial Bacta Tank, his epic entrance to meet with Director Krennic (and subsequent badass exit as well), and finally the stunning massacre at the end of the film. Someone get me a gif of that lightsaber turning on. I need it in my life.
The fight choreography for Donnie Yen‘s character, Chirrut Imwe, was incredible. I actually held my breath during his first fight scene against the Storm Troopers in the Holy City and I definitely had goosebumps at one point. It was just really fantastic. Although I disliked his whole ‘I am one with the Force, the Force is with me’ shtick – mainly because it came off as comedy relief when I hoped he would be a more serious kind of character – I think Yen did a good job in the role.
Diego Luna as the dedicated Alliance fighter, Cassian, was pretty much perfect in the role. I really enjoyed his performance and although when he first met Jyn I couldn’t see much chemistry between the two actors, by the time they reached the Holy City they were easy to watch together. Certainly by the ending scenes, I had really fallen for them as partners and was really devastated at the beach scene.
Unfortunately, I really didn’t know what was going on with Forest Whitaker‘s performance as Saw Gerrera and it was distractingly bad, in my opinion. His voice was inconsistent from his first appearance interrogating the Imperial Pilot to when he met Jyn and the quirks of the character were just strange. It felt like he wasn’t sure which kind of character he wanted Saw to be. I think he was going for something intense and kind of erratic and scary, like when he’d take a gulp of air while staring wide-eyed, but it just didn’t work for me, which is a pity as I like Whitaker‘s other work.
The cast worked really well together and it was great to see so much diversity on-screen, particularly because we got to see more of actors who aren’t particularly well known. Mads Mikkelson was great as Galen Erso and the opening scenes with he and his wife with young Jyn were superb. Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), on the other hand, didn’t really make much of an impression for me. I know in a few months I’ll have trouble remembering his face, though I do fully intend on seeing Rogue One in the cinema again before its run ends.
K2SO deserves a mention as well! He was great fun and provided a little light in a very grim film, although at times his voice was altogether far too human to be believable, but it’s not a huge issue. As well as that, it was really fun to see all the Easter Eggs littered throughout, like the Blue Milk for instance.
The third act really is the film’s crowning glory. A lot of Rogue One didn’t feel particularly Star Wars-y, mostly due to the tone, but from the moment they left the Alliance base and the Rogue One ship was christened, that familiar feeling of nostalgia was there. The battle scenes on the beach in Scarif were some of the best in all the episodes and reminds me a lot of when the Rebel base on Hoth was attacked in The Empire Strikes Back.
As we all knew how this film was really going to end, it could easily have been a bit of a bore, but I think it took this challenge head on and produced a really great little film that fits neatly in between the Originals, The Force Awakens and the Prequels. Above all, I’m glad they made the decision to end it the way they did. It really couldn’t have gone any other way, but even so, I felt genuinely sad when the end came for each of the brave Rogue One crew.
What did you think of Rogue One? Will you see it again? Let us know in the comments!