Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Film Review - Rogue One : A Star Wars Story

Gareth Edwards directs the first Disney Stand Alone Star Wars film. The film is based on central characters not seen before in the Star Wars universe and answers the question: Why would a weapon as complex as the Death Star be vulnerable to destruction by a single photon torpedo. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) witnesses a tragic family event as a child as her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken away by Imperial Captain Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to finish work on the Death Star that he created.

We next catch up to Jyn as a young adult having been in and out of trouble with the law for petty criminal acts. She's freed by the Rebel alliance with a plan that she could be of use to get the rebels close to her father to halt the completion of the Empire's super weapon. The Rebels send leading pilot Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) with her to find her former protector Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) on Jedha who may have the key to locate Galen Erso. On Jeda the pair link up with blind martial artist Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Mercenary Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) along with Imperial defector Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) to form the group that will attempt to find Jyn's dad then obtain the schematics of the Death Star.

Writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy craft a more grime less fun story from the main topic of the opening act of the original Star Wars film where Darth Vader boards Princess Leia's ship hunting for the just stolen Battleship plans. The plans take centre stage again in the last act of Star Wars when they are downloaded from R2D2 then the rebel pilots are briefed how to destroy the Death Star. The writers fill the backstory with several unique and intriguing multi-dimensional characters that one expects suffered a negative fate as none of them appear in the first Star Wars trilogy.

Felicity Jones turns in another of a string of strong performances as Jyn Erso. She witnessed a family tragedy at a very young age, was raised until 16 by Saw Gerrera then fended for herself in the shadows as she entered young adulthood. She grows from a selfish petty thief to the leader of a vital mission for the rebel alliance. Diego Luna's Cassian Andor also has experienced trauma since the age of six due to Empire aggression. He's a leading rebel Captain that follows his orders with brutal efficiency only to evolve to think and choose the best course of action as he becomes more influenced by Jyn and the other members of their band of rebels. Ben Mendelsohn is formidable as the main Imperial heavy Captain Krennic. He is a longtime colleague turned pursuer of Galen Erso. His ambition exudes from every pore as does his single-minded determination to prove that his plant killing Death Star is the best weapon in the Empire's arsenal reaping all of the glory that will follow for the distinction. Watch for Alan Tudyk voicing the reprogrammed Imperial security droid K-2SO. The droid has many of the best lines of the film often keeping all of the main characters off balance.

Rogue One:A Star Wars Story does start off a little slowly in the opening frames but once the action picks up in Jeda the film finds its rhythm and does not look back. The writers did a credible job of fleshing out a full story from a plot point focused on twice in the original film aimed directly at a grown up audience.  The ensemble cast fall easily into their roles backed by the usual stunning visuals and trappings of the Star Wars universe making it a film that I can definitely recommend. It's the film audience were hoping to see when they walked into the original disappointing reboot The Phantom Menace. Based on this first outing and new technology to reverse the aging process and literally bring actors back from the dead  I strongly predict more stand along Star Wars Stories in the future.  

**** Out of 4.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story | Gareth Edwards | U.S.A. | 134 minutes.

Tags: Star Wars, Death Star, Engineer, Imperial, Empire, Rebel Alliance, Computer Generated, The Force, Stand Alone Project.


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