Rogue One Review: SPOILERS

This review contains spoilers. For those who have not seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we have a spoiler free review here-

When Disney/Lucasfilm revealed that Rogue One would be based around the rebels stealing the plans to the Death Star, we wondered what kind of approach the film would take. When Gareth Edwards later confirmed it would be a war film, that wondering didn’t go away.

There was an effort within the Rebellion to create a divide which could be seen through General Draven, a ruthless Rebellion officer determined to win at any cost, which when compared to Mon Mothma, showed two very different sides to the Rebellion. However it was left to the new characters to represent the face of war.

We get to know Jyn Erso from a very young age. An innocent child raised in isolation from the galaxy for its own safety, she was forced to grow up fast under the mentorship of Saw Gerrera after her mother’s death. Forest Whitaker’s portrayer of Saw Gerrera is of an edgy character, an extremist who’s years of fighting against the empire has made him paranoid with the Rebellion itself distancing itself from him. Saw’s influence on Jyn is clear which is why the Rebellion chooses to use her as an intermediary. We get to see Jyn transform from somebody who is lost but with clear motivations into somebody with a purpose determined to make a real difference in the galaxy. This is brilliantly and convincingly pulled off by Felicity Jones.

Alongside Jyn is Captain Cassian Andor, a far more interesting character than the trailers let on. Cassian is used to represent the many aspects of war itself. He is a soldier somewhat lost, twisted by the demands of espionage and worn down by the demands of the Rebellion. The best example of this is General Draven’s order to execute Galen Erso, an order given outside the will of the other council members. It’s a decision Cassian battles with on a personal level as we can see war has taken its toll on him. However as the film develops we see Cassian transform into the hero we all want to see him become. Jyn inadvertently helps him find his focus again and we see Cassian transform from a soldier almost lost to a hero with a clear cause. We can’t help but want to see both live happily ever after.

Sadly, this isn’t the case. The decision to kill off every character that was not in the original trilogy was a brave move, but one we don’t see often enough. It would have been easy to have Jyn and Cassian fly off into the corner of the galaxy to relax on a beach with their budding romance but to have them heroically die in a blaze of glory whilst also getting their victory over the Empire was a surprise but one so well handled, it was easy to accept.

The enemies in Rogue One are quite simply brilliant. Director Krennic is an emerging figure in the Empire with big aspirations however his political battle with Grand Moff Tarkin for power is far more delicate than the battle against the Rebellion. He has to balance this infighting with the duty to find the leak in his organisation which sees him finding his aspirations slipping through his fingers. Both battles are well handled with the battle with Tarkin in particular showing the interesting dog eat dog world of the Empire.  As the film develops he becomes more dangerous, something that solidifies his place as the primary antagonist whilst at the same time clearly creating a void for Tarkin to step into for A New Hope.

Then there is Darth Vader. Though many fans will have wanted to see more, it’s a case of less is more as it’s always a good thing when you’re left wanting more. We’ll be honest, we were not massive fans of his introduction. On a planet looking like, though unlikely to be, Mustafar; we are taken to what is presumably Darth Vader’s home. We felt short changed in that it felt like we’d stumbled into the Lord Of The Rings and the big unveil of the cloaked figure kneeling before the Bacta Tank was underwhelming. That’s as bad as it gets, as from that point onwards it’s the Vader we all know, love and wanted to see. A ruthless figure, assured of his place, not embroiled in aspiration or political infighting who is ready to step in and stamp his authority on the situation. Krennic’s demeanour around Vader simply speaks volumes of his place in the galaxy. The final scenes show the pure power of Vader, the Empire, the Dark Side and the real scale of the war in which the Rebellion are up against. There is a reason the council were so pessimistic in backing Jyn on Scarif and this is shown by the ruthlessness of the final minutes of Rogue One. Their fear is justified in a mere matter of seconds.

From our experience in the Star Wars universe, we get to see so many worlds and so many different settings on both the light and dark side of the force that this film had a lot to live up to. And one thing we knew we would see from Gareth Edwards as director was an ambitious attempt at seizing the opportunity to amplify the grandeur of the Star Wars galaxy and he did not disappoint. Everything from the Death Star to the final battle in space and on the ground were mind blowingly brilliant. It will be difficult not to rank these scenes among the very best in Star Wars. We did watch Rogue One in Imax so the scale of the settings was something to behold but even on the small screen, every inch of the galaxy is perfect.

Finally, what impressed us most was the ambition and drive shown to make Rogue One an epic film part of the Star Wars universe but not relying on the saga films. To make Rogue One stand independently was always going to be tricky, even more so when you consider this was the first anthology film, although the steadying presence of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin helped achieve this. The role of Tarkin was brilliantly filled and the CGI used to create the character was near flawless. There were odd moments you could tell CG was used but that’s because we were looking for it. For those not aware of Peter Cushing’s sad death, there’s a good chance any minor questions would have been dismissed. The Princess Leia cameo was almost as impressive however it was clear most of the emphasis and resources were used to bring Tarkin to life in all his sinisterism and it worked a treat.

This is Star Wars at its best!

Rating- 4.5 Stars out of 5