If you haven’t seen the film, opt out of this review right away as it may contain spoilers!
But if you have seen it and you just need someone to agree/disagree with, or if you don’t mind spoilers and just need an opinion (our 2 cents!) before you watch it, then read on.
By now, you’ve probably seen nothing but rave reviews of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” on your social media news feeds, be it from shared articles or friends’ statuses. The first of the “Star Wars” standalone (read: spin-off) films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opened to much fanfare last week worldwide. In fact, according to BBC, the film has taken a whopping total of USD290.5 million (£232.8 million) globally on its opening weekend alone.
But is it really as great as raved about on social media by your family, friends, acquaintances, whoever? Here’s what we thought of the movie:
1. Tarkin, Leia, Darth Vader, need we say more?
If this standalone movie is supposed to connect fans to “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone that some cameos had to be made – by hook or by crook. For real. Of course, ultimate “Star Wars” baddie Darth Vader had to be in it, voiced by none other than James Earl Jones (who is now 85 years old) of the original “Star Wars” film series. But the biggest challenge must’ve been the out-of-this-world attempt to bring Imperial governor Grand Moff Tarkin back, who was played by British actor Peter Cushing in 1977. Peter Cushing died back in 1994 but his character made a grand return in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, signature cheekbones and all, courtesy of BBC soap actor Guy Henry and some CG wizardry. Thanks to technology, fans also came face-to-face with a CG-enhanced (to masterfully add Carrie Fisher’s facial expressions) cameo of Princess Leia (played by Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila). To say the least, the “Star Wars” fans in us were doing cartwheels when those scenes played. How the production crew got the voice work so spot on is beyond us, though!
2. A little too fast-paced for proper character development
Because “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is pretty much action-packed right from the very beginning at breakneck speed, it left very little room for proper character development. Case in point, Jyn Erso. Played by British actress Felicity Jones (of “The Theory of Everything” fame), Jyn Erso’s story kicks off when we are introduced to her family, Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelsen) and Lyra Erso (played by Valene Kane). A skilled scientist, Galen is sought after by the Empire for the production of the Death Star. To protect Jyn and ultimately save the galaxy, Galen agrees to become an obedient Imperial stooge, only to secretly plant an Achilles heel in the Death Star. Fast forward to the future, Jyn, having grown up without her parents or a proper father figure, lives on a day-to-day survival basis and is a stubborn, world-hating young lady. Reckless and rebellious (they put great emphasis on this), she meets Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) in her quest to find her father, who in turn introduces her to the Alliance. Bam, as quickly as that happened, Jyn went from rambunctious rebel to Rebel spies leader before you can even say, “May the force be with you.” Wait, what?
3. We want a K2 because he’s the bomb digs!
Aside from Grand Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader, lovable “Star Wars” droid pair C3PO and R2D2 also made a cameo for all of 10 seconds (blink and you’ll miss them!). But one other droid effectively stole the show – the formidable and towering K2SO (pronounced as Kaytoo Esso), otherwise known as just K2. Voiced by Alan Tudyk (of “Moana” fame), K2 is a former Imperial security droid freed and reprogrammed by Rebel fighter Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna). Matte black and about 7 ft tall, K2 is armed with killer capabilities and the best snarky lines in all his British-accented glory. At times, he’s all “not a single f*ck was given” deadpan in his conversations to Jyn Erso, because he’s brutally honest like that, but when Jyn blasts an identical-looking Imperial security droid, K2 whimpers, “Did you know that wasn’t me?”, inciting laughter from the audience. For a film that’s as fast-paced and dark (read: unusually high body count) as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, it was sure refreshing to have K2 deliver some excellent comic relief.
4. “The force is with me, I am one with the force”
2 words: Donnie Yen. The multiple award-winning 53-year-old Chinese actor (of “Ip Man” fame) plays a blind character in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” – mysterious spiritual warrior-monk Chirrut Imwe. As a monk, he’s seemingly gentle with words and in his mannerisms. However, in the film’s climatic battle scenes, damn, he’s a badass, whipping out martial arts moves that one would’ve never dreamed of ever seeing in a “Star Wars” movie. Who needs a lightsaber when you have Chirrut Imwe to take down an entire band of Stormtroopers with just a wooden staff? ;) And was it hard playing Chirrut Imwe in a film primarily dominated by CG, blasters, and armours? In speaking to USA Today, Donnie said, “For me, the hardest part was not being able to interact with my fellow actors because as a blind character, I wasn’t able to look them in the eye and draw reactions from them. Plus the contact lenses weren’t comfortable and I had to take them out of my eyes every 20 minutes.” Not bad, not bad at all for the first Chinese actor cast in a “Star Wars” movie. Represent!
5. Director Gareth Edwards included unseen “Star Wars” footage
There’s no better way to further enhance “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” than to include original, previous unseen “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” footage into the film. Not only did Director Gareth Edwards successfully blend nostalgia with mind-blowing CG for the standalone “Star Wars” flick, certain scenes in the film were created from discarded footage shot for “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”. Gareth told RadioTimes.com, “We went to Skywalker ranch, and there’s the archives there. And as we’re walking around, and doing all the cool things and looking at the Millennium Falcon and trying on Han Solo’s jacket and things like that, in the back at the bottom was all these cans of film. And we said, ‘What are they?’ and they said ‘Oh, it’s Star Wars’.” Grabbing at the opportunity to pay homage to “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”, Gareth included the iconic Death Star assault at the end of the film and the X-Wing call sign exchange.
6. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” pales in comparison, sorry
While “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a gift wrapped in a galaxy-patterned paper topped off with a metallic silver bow for “Star Wars” fans, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” took a completely different route in storytelling. Beautiful cinematography, new never-seen-before characters, and “childhood memories igniting” cameos aside, the film filled in the blanks for the original trilogy, taking fans behind the scenes of what happened when Rebel spies fought their way to getting their hands on the Death Star plans. No longer just part of a “space opera” franchise, there were epic battle scenes at aesthetically pleasing locations (Maldives!), big swooping sacrifices, and some of the best lines. Suffice to say, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” painted “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” in a new light.
A real standalone “Star Wars” movie, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will not disappoint. And we’d be lying if it didn’t make us want to rewatch “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” immediately.
To quote Mark Hamill aka Luke Skywalker:
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) December 17, 2016
Damn right ;)
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, and more, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has been released in a cinema near you.