Director: Gareth Edwards
Runtime: 133 minutes
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story presents Star Wars in a different way from what we’re used to. It’s definitely still Star Wars, with corny dialogue, droids and screen-wipes, but the action scenes are more visceral, more aggressive than before. Think Star Wars meets Black Hawk Down. Now, it’s not overly violent, and still acts as a family film, but the subtle changes in its cinematography, acting and editing are refreshing in this long-running franchise.
As I said above, the action sequences are more visceral than other Star Wars’ titles. Gareth Edwards seemed to be given a freer reign over Rogue One than J.J. Abrams was for The Force Awakens. This is probably because Rogue One is a prequel/spin-off title. His freer reign allowed for more violent action sequences and differing approaches to editing. Sure, aspects such as screen-wipes remain, but they are less frequent. The ground shakes with a bomb blast. Dirt flies through the air. People are hurting, dying. It’s like a war movie at times. However, Edwards’ direction also let a few turds into the punch bowl.
The opening half hour of the film is awful. We get a huge amount of exposition shoved down our throats in a messy opening that takes us from planet to planet with little time to breath. I don’t know why Mr. Edwards thought we needed an insane amount of backstory in a film that is all backstory. Yes, I understand that we should have seen Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) being told to flee and hide as her dad is taken in by the Empire to finish off his work on the Death Star, but what happens afterwards is sloppy filmmaking. We are taken off, planet to planet for information and exposition dumps galore. The film’s plot is simple enough – Jyn Erso and her small group of supporters go off to find the plans to disable the Death Star – it didn’t need to be explained in excruciating, messy detail.
Thankfully, the messy, terrible opening act is left in space dust when the film truly kicks off. The film flows along at a steady pace, with more than enough action sequences to get around things like the awful Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), whose rubbish costume and incredibly corny acting suck the life out of the scenes he’s in. Luckily, the acting is solid from the rest of the cast. Felicity Jones giving one of the finest performances in the Star Wars franchise. Her plight is believable, and she gives a down-to-earth performance, even in the action scenes. Jyn’s relationship with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is great too. It’s no Luke, Leia and Han Solo, but it was well written and acted.
Despite all the good in Rogue One, such as the action scenes and great leads, it stutters from time to time. I don’t understand why filmmakers are in love with fully CGI characters in a largely human world, but Rogue One suffers from this. If you have a character, and the actor is sadly no longer with us, or is too old, just use someone who looks like them. Fully CGI renderings used in this way take the viewer out of the film. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief when you have a CGI man sharing the screen with a human actor as if it’s normal. These CGI characters and the awful opening half hour were enough to drag the film down for me. Rogue One is better than any of the prequel trilogy, but it’s not as good as any of the other films in the franchise.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a slow burner, but the visceral action scenes and quality leading pair ensure it moves beyond any shortcomings.