Just to specify – this review is SPOILER FREE meaning there are zero spoilers in this review. This review is safe to read if you have not seen the movie. But if you want to go in 100% blind then stay away from all reviews. If you want to be prepared going into the movie then check out our Rogue One Ultimate Prep Guide.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jian, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, and Jimmy Smits (returning from Episode II & III).
This is the prequel to Episode IV: A New Hope and tells the story of how a few brave rebels steal the plans to the Death Star.
Surprisingly, this story is well told and there is actually a story to tell. When I first heard the announcement that they were making a Star Wars film involving stealing the plans to the Death Star, I was somewhat disappointed because there didn’t seem to be a story there. But I’m thankful to report the story makes sense and has a deep familial connection which pulls at the heart strings.
The first act is engaging and a mystery not only because of the story but also because sense I’m wondering how a ‘non-Episode’ film will be handled and where they will take it. I felt immediately sucked back into the world originally seen in Episode IV. Edwards has lovingly recreated the universe originally seen but has brought it into the 21st century with ground breaking effects and gorgeous cinematography. I constantly was wondering where the story would take me next and how all these plots and characters tied together.
A small gripe I had was how many worlds were shown in the first half hour or possibly even first 15 minutes. When films location hop too much, especially in succession, I have an issue because I feel the story becomes too choppy. They gave the audience title cards and did bring up the names of the planets throughout the film so it was nice to have those displayed to help with remembrance of which planet was which. And the planets have easy names so I was glad for that.
The second act is the slowest. What gleeful mystery you have in the first act is bogged down by the second act which had me questioning “where is this film going?” I actually started to doze a little and didn’t miss much; granted I was very tired but…there are pacing issues. Thankfully the third act and certain characters make up for the slow place and liven things up.
Interestingly, I was thinking of Apocalypse Now while watching this. No this film is really nothing like Apocalypse Now, but it had that gritty, desperate, war film kind of vibe. The stakes were high and the mission had to be completed all costs. The action is incredible and the best in any Star Wars film. This is a war film with great drama.
A complaint I have heard is how the characters are not fleshed out enough nor provided enough back story. Personally, I didn’t think about this nor did it bother me in the slightest. Honestly I’m glad we didn’t have one of those cliche quiet moments where all the characters sit around and reminisce about their past and that’s how the audience learns about them. I didn’t need to know these characters backstories in order for me to like them. These characters are compelling by the actors showing us their performance skills and how they grow as characters through their arcs.
Remember this is “A Star Wars Story.” Think of it as a story told around a camp fire where listeners are engaged without needing intricate backstories. Or think of it as a story your parents told you before bed. The characters and story capture your imagination by taking you on a whirlwind adventure that doesn’t have time to explain everything about the characters. This is a legend after all.
The main characters of this story are Jyn Erso, her father, Gaylin Erso, and honestly the Death Star aka the Empire. You know everything you need to about these main characters. Everyone else are neat characters that bring depth in their performance and serve the purpose to play their own part in driving the story.
I was very pleased to see the stand-out character is K2SO. He is witty, sarcastic, and surprisingly touching. C3PO always provided some humor, but K2SO does so even better and provided a somewhat dark story with a lighter tone.
In order to know my thoughts about Darth Vader in this film along with another unnamed character, read my spoiler review. I will say, though, that I believe he was used just enough and in an incredible way at the end ; )
Rating & Recommendation~
Most reviews for this film are positive. Everyone is excited and incredibly jazzed to see what more Disney can do with standalone Star Wars films. Some reviewers, including Chris Stuckmann who I respect as a reviewer, are down on this film for reasons I’ll discuss in my spoiler review. Do not go in to this movie with soured expectations. It is a fun, breathtaking adventure with heart.
This film is great. My entire IMAX theater clapped and I was ready to scream with joy. I have never experienced such emotion and joy in a Star Wars film before.
The third act makes the film. At the end of the film I forgot any slowness or confusion over certain characters or things that occupied the first and second acts. Rogue One is a cinematic achievement in visual effects, cinematography, and story. Honestly, I want to say this is my favorite Star Wars film, but I need to watch it again and give it more time to sink in. This film gave me such emotion that I have never felt in a Star Wars film before which might make it better than The Empire Strikes Back (for me that is!); it is so hard to say because this and Episode V are different films with different purposes. Rogue One does have more heart though, but it is missing some of the standout characters and plots featured in Episode V. There are things to like more in each film. Since this is a part of a different film set (the new anthology films) I guess I don’t necessarily have to decide which film is better.
Who knows, maybe Episode VIII will be better than this film, and it will become my new favorites Star Wars movie.
But this is the best Star Wars film since Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (not necessarily better).
I am giving Rogue One 8 stars out of 10 since this film is truly Great and receives a Strong Recommend. It is possible I may bump this rating up to 9 stars in the future, but I feel if I did that now it would be an unfounded rating since I need to see this again and evaluate further.