“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a whole new breed of “Star Wars” film, as it doesn’t focus on Skywalker drama and the word “episode” is missing from the title. It’s the series’ first foray into theatrically released live-action spin-offs, and judging by its massive box office success, it won’t be the last. The Gareth Edwards directed picture is set roughly 19 years after the events of “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”, the same year as “Episode IV: A New Hope”. “Rogue One” aims to fill in plot holes left by “A New Hope” through the story of the brave rebels who made the takedown of the Death Star possible.
The galaxy is at its lowest point: the Jedi have been almost entirely wiped out, and those who survived Order 66 are in hiding. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the brazenly independent daughter of an Imperial architect, is our protagonist. Jyn is reckless for all the right reasons, willing to fight for what she believes in. Additionally, Jones gets a chance to show off her sophisticated theatrical skills in the film’s heaviest, most emotional scenes. I can bet that forty years from now, girls will still be dressing up like her, and looking up to her the same way that they admire and emulate Leia now. She’s daring, outspoken, and skilled in combat, but her greatest quality is that she is a completely ordinary woman. She’s not the proverbial “chosen one”, nor is she royalty. Without Jedi to protect Democracy, the galaxy’s only hope is ordinary citizens like Jyn.
The story begins with Jyn escaping from Imperial clutches with the aid of the Rebel Alliance. Jyn reluctantly joins forces with Rebel Captain Cassian Andor, and security droid K-2SO in hopes that she may reconnect with her estranged father while aiding the Rebel Alliance in their mission to uncover the Empire’s plan for a super weapon. While on the planet Jedha, the three meet a blind mystic and a former freelance assassin. The growing team proposes a scheme to steal the Empire’s Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance, but because of the great risk it poses, they turn down the hopeful heroes. Jyn decides, however, that there is too much at stake to ignore what is happening. Imperial-pilot-turned-Rebel Bodhi Rook joins the crew to transport the rogues to the planet Scarif so they can steal the plans and expose the Death Star’s weakness to the Alliance.
With “The Force Awakens” being the biggest movie of 2015 and completely revolutionizing the franchise, “Rogue One” had a lot to live up to. It had to be uniquely different from the Skywalker Saga while maintaining the special feeling which those films evoked. The result is a gritty and bold epic, tonally emblematic of the shroud of the dark side, which had fallen on the galaxy during this time. The CGI is mind-bogglingly advanced, but the practical sets, as seen on Jedha in particular, were the true spectacle.
“Rogue One” has an abundance of new characters for audiences to obsess over, but as great as they are, no mere mortal, or droid for that matter, is a match for the deliciously ruthless Darth Vader. With every labored breath and commanding gesture, Vader manages to steal scenes and make them instantly iconic. While his part in “Rogue One” is minimal, his presence can be felt constantly looming over the film’s events as they unfold.
“Rogue One” boasts a phenomenally talented, and especially diverse ensemble cast. The film stars Mexican actor Diego Luna, Chinese actors Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, and Pakistani actor Riz Ahmed each in a wonderfully unique role. “Star Wars” has once again shown their dedication to representing people of all ethnicities in their influential movies. This progressive, inclusive casting decision is a small but important step toward equal representation in film.
The latest “Star Wars” flick is the harshest one thus far, period. “Rogue One” shows just how devastated the galaxy was before a new hope (Luke Skywalker) came along. It is a welcome addition to the “Star Wars” canon for filling in plot holes that have bothered fans since the release of “Episode IV” in 1977. Most importantly, it makes moviegoers understand and appreciate the sacrifice and courage of countless rebels to get to the Battle of Yavin. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is entertaining to say the least, even without Jedi Knights swinging their lightsabers. There is no doubt, the Force is strong with this “One”.