Forget Jar Jar, Rogue One delivers

Forget Jar Jar, Rogue One delivers

Review: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

(M) Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen

Fans have finally been given a prequel worthy of the vast Star Wars universe. Forget Jar Jar and the endless banter about trade routes and senate inquiries. Rogue One has landed in cinemas and will storm the beaches of the box office over the Christmas period.

For those not in the know, Rogue One is an expanded universe story, or anthology film. It develops the simple story of the band of rebels who stole the plans to the Death Star, only to have them delivered to Princess Leia and programmed into R2D2 with the message delivered via those immortal words “Help me Obi-Wan, you’re my only hope.”

Perhaps director Gareth Edwards’ greatest achievement with Rogue One is that he had a complete story to tell, and he has told it very well. The story fills in the gaps between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope with the events summarised in A New Hope’s crawl:

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armoured space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Instead of the traditional title crawl we are now familiar with, Rogue One places us right in the action after the title “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” appears on screen. Opening scenes find our hero, Jyn Erso, living with her parents peacefully. Her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), helped design the Death Star but deserted before its completion. Soon enough the Empire, in the form of its head of weapons development Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), tracks them down to finally realise the Empire’s plans to begin the wholesale destruction of the Rebellion with the planet-sized weapon.

The movie quickly zips forward to show a grown-up Jyn (Felicity Jones) recruited to join the Rebel Alliance. She is battle-hardened by the absence of parents and once the whereabouts of the plans are discovered on the tropical planet Scarif, Jyn decides to take a rag tag group to retrieve them despite the Rebels reticence to do so.

From this point on, Rogue One is a heist movie about stealing the plans for the Death Star. Like every good heist movie, it must assemble a motley crew of specialists. The first to join is the hardened rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his sarcastic droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), who nearly steals the movie.

Soon, these three are saved by the blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe, played by Donnie Yen, who gives the Star Wars universe a welcome infusion of martial arts – as well as the spiritual centre to this movie. He also has his fair share of humourous exchanges. And trailing behind the blind seer is his heavily armed partner, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). Last is Bodhi Rook, a pilot and another deserter from the Empire, played by Riz Ahmed.

Along the way, this band of mostly brothers meets a cast of characters new and — more often than you might expect — old.

Of course, fans have been waiting most for Darth Vader, voiced once again by James Earl Jones.

Other franchise characters appear too, already revealed in the teasers. There’s Grand Moff Tarkin — played, thanks to CGI trickery, by Peter Cushing, (who passed away 22 years ago). To give up many of the other surprises the film delivers would rob the experience of its truly compelling and action-packed story.

One thing Gareth Edwards has achieved with this film is its sense of scale. But this might come as no surprise as his last films were Godzilla and Monsters. Its scale comes from some truly amazing and spectacular footage, particularly the scenes on the lush tropical planet Scarif, as Rebels run from the hulking ATATs pummelling palm trees in their wake. In other scenes, gigantic Star Destroyers topple into each other like so many dominoes. Much of the destruction the Death Star causes in the film is also viewed from the ground which provides some truly impressive special effects.

Hope is the film’s central theme. Jyn comes through her childhood to believe there is no hope (she was all but abandoned by her parents and mentor), but she has it restored in the possibility of seeing it come to fruition with the demise of the evil Empire. As she explains in a rousing speech,”rebellions are built on hope” with this motley band delivering a new hope for the future of the galaxy.

Like The Empire Strikes Back, Rogue One is able to expand the Star Wars universe in unexpected and surprising ways without needing to rely on its time-honoured template. There are no Jedi masters (although there is mention of their last temple) or lightsabers. There’s just some rattling good storytelling that fans of the series have been waiting 40 years to see.

What does the Bible say about hope?

Read Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 5:2-5, Deuteronomy 31:6, Proverbs 23:18

Adrian Drayton

 

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