We are treated, in this prequel to Episode IV, to the story of how criminal malcontent Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Rebel Intelligence Officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) team up to steal the plans for the Empire’s latest and greatest weapon of mass destruction – the Death Star. Along the way they find themselves opposed by Death Star Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) who admittedly is somewhat bland compared to Star Wars villains of yore, but worry not because with a supporting cast that includes Mads Mikkelsen, Forrest Whittaker, Jimmy Smits, Alan Tudyk, and Donnie Yen, it’s pretty easy to forgive a less than impressive antagonist.
Make no mistake though – this a film that rings out like the World War Two films of the late forties and fifties in scope with the edge of the “Dirty Dozen.” There’s no way to hide that many of the big name characters are on a one way journey to glory and will do anything to reach that end. The movie really earns its PG-13 rating showing explosive Stormtrooper deaths by the dozens and dizzying space combat that should leave even the most jaded space cowboy enthusiast gasping for breath and holding on to their seat for dear life.
Director Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) cites George Lucas as one of his biggest influences, and he uses the fairly tight screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy to great effect. The bottom line here is that while this movie was clearly made for the Star Wars Generation it goes much further in terms of its brutality and violence than any previous film in the franchise. The film looks spectacular in its imagery, showcasing a variety of new planets in a way that makes your most advanced travelogues seem uninspired.
For those that covet Easter eggs, this movie is a virtual smorgasbord of references of all shapes and sizes. I, for one, took special interest in the beautiful costuming and the return of some of my favorite accouterments ranging from old school rebel helmets to Han Solo’s winter coat. I was also astounded at the multitude of nostalgic notes that were jam packed within the movie, and I am sure that die hard fans will find the references simply irresistible.
The film’s few missteps revolve around what I consider a rather uninspired score that highlighted the absence of John Williams. And of course the issue of the CGI recreations of iconic characters Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Even in IMAX 3-D the problems were not only evident, but quite frankly made the CGI execution of Jar Jar Binks seem flawless by comparison. This will, of course, be irksome to some fans and special effects enthusiasts, but I found the flaws forgivable in light of the film’s overall undeniable beauty. “Rogue One” lives up to its promise.
With an estimated budget of $200 million and current world wide gross at almost $900 million as of this writing, “Rogue One” ensures a mega-profitable year for Disney and the assurance of many more Star Wars Stories to come. Overall, I give the film an A-.