Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away there was a franchise of movies that excited a young boy and began a lifelong fandom with the adventures of space wizards and scoundrels and alien creatures from exotic locations. The Star Wars series of movies and the numerous additions to the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now known as Star Wars Legends) had a profound impact on myself as a young boy, influencing me in ways that most speak of developing a love for Lord of the Rings from an early age (or in more modern times, Harry Potter).
I say that to explain the mindset behind the rest of this review: it is not objective, it is not unbiased, and I will not apologize for that. (I promise my movie opinions are generally better than my food opinions)
Rogue One, for those who are completely unaware of the concept, is not a main entry in the Star Wars universe. It is not a sequel to The Force Awakens, as some have thought. It is a movie set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope (Episodes III and IV, or between the two main trilogies). The action takes place in the days leading up to Episode IV and ends within minutes of Episode IV beginning. This mostly-standalone story is the beginning of a new series of movies referred to as “Anthologies” that will fill in details and backgrounds between the main story arcs.
Could you see Rogue One with little to no knowledge? Yes. Does it help to have some understanding of Star Wars and the placement of this movie in the timeline? Most certainly. Will you enjoy it more being a nerd like myself and catching all of the references and Easter eggs? Absolutely.
Rogue One is first and foremost a story of Jyn Urso, who has been abandoned since the time she was a child. She is recruited by a fledgling and resource-strapped Rebellion to get information from a contact and former caretaker of hers, Saw Gerrera. The information he has drives the rest of the main plot forward, and it is not a spoiler to say it is all about getting the plans for the secret and highly destructive Death Star.
The action, plot, and story, function first as an espionage and wartime movie. If it were not in the Star Wars universe, it would serve just fine as such a movie in its own right (although more exposition and background would be necessary as a result—there is some amount of believing the audience will have an idea as to what is going on when they watch it). But as an entry into the Star Wars universe, this film is in the top tier. My own brother ranks it as the best of all the films, and while I will not go that far with it myself, it is certainly in the top three (The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope are the top two).
It is a story about facing unbelievable odds. It is a film that explores sacrifice for loved ones and others. It explores causes that can be greater than oneself and if the tradeoff is worth it. The movie is suspenseful, dramatic, and heart-wrenching at times. And yet it has some memorable quotes and characters that will stay with you long after the movie is over.
The acting is solid and believable. The CGI and film footage never looked too bad or distracting. And you never once have to hear a whiny teenager describe how he hates sand nor the words “meesa” and “wude” spoken by the most hated creature in all the galaxy.
Watch the movie, enjoy it for what it is (which is “a really freaking great movie”). You won’t regret it.
(Also did you know this is the first Star Wars movie actually to be about war? Thanks, Vox, for that trivia!)
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