Movie Review: “Rogue One” – The Episode We Deserved

Written by Jesse Gelinas December 21, 2016

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in Rogue OneIsn’t it great being able to say you’re on your way to see Star Wars in THEATERS again? No longer do Episodes I-III have to be our generation’s Star Wars films. The biggest sci-fi franchise in the world is back with a vengeance with two huge films already. Episode VII took the safe nostalgic route, letting us relive the glory of A New Hope. Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One, on the other hand, has decided to do things a little differently, taking a few more risks and giving us a few more surprises. For a story we already know the conclusion of, the film manages a few impressive twists and turns, and manages to recapture the classic Star Wars charm without being too in-your-face about it.

Rogue One takes place shortly before the beginning of the original Star Wars (aka Ep IV: A New Hope). An Imperial defector has alerted the Rebel Alliance to the existence of a new super weapon, that is about to be tested: the Death Star. Under the command of Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the planet-killing space station will usher in a new era of oppression and terror across the galaxy. Rescued from an Imperial prison, Jyrn Erso (Felicity Jones) becomes the Rebellion’s one hope at discovering the whereabouts of the Death Star’s creator (Mads Mikkelsen), and the blueprints that could lead to its destruction.

“You are rebels, aren’t you?”

Rogue One’s biggest hurdle going into it, is that every Star Wars fan knows the story already. Or rather, we know the gist, and the outcome. The Rebels steal the Death Star plans. Leia gives them to the droids. Luke and Han save the galaxy. These are not spoilers at this point. That said, the film manages to keep the story fresh with interesting characters, surprising obstacles for our heroes, and a few clever cameos that don’t feel overly shoehorned in. When I remembered the Rogue One story, I imagined a simple smash and grab operation. Not a planet hopping jailbreak, followed by full out space battles. It was grand without feeling grandiose, and different without feeling contradictory.

A star destroyer in front of the Death Star from Rogue One

Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso carries the film on her shoulders, and does it with grace and general badassery. Her ragtag team of comrades all bring something different, and manage to almost rival the charm and naturalism of the original cast. Donnie Yen is terrific as the Force-faithful monk. Forest Whitaker and Mads Mikkelsen feel a tad wasted in htheir small roles, but are enjoyable as hell, as expected. And keeping with the tradition of great droids like C-3PO and BB-8, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) brings humour, charm, and still a few cool moments to the film. He also has most of the best lines for this very reason.

“I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me.”

When I saw The Force Awakens I was blown away. I still am; it’s a NEW Star Wars movie, and it doesn’t suck. It is a great film, but once you take off the rose-coloured glasses, it does have its flaws. Yes, we all knew we ere just getting A New Hope 2.0. Yes, the winks and nods to the audience are many, and obvious. Rogue One manages to be just as enjoyable and nostalgic without feeling so forced. When R2 and 3PO show up, it doesn’t feel superfluous; it seems natural. When the Imperial Destroyer floats across the screen looking like a miniature model, it doesn’t seem like a throwback. It feels consistent. The film is full of little joyous moments like this, but you actually have to look for them, which actually makes it more rewarding, especially for hardcore fans.

A battle from Rogue One, featuring Imperial AT-ATs!

Rogue One is a fantastic Star Wars installment. And while it’s not an “episode,” this “Star Wars Story” certainly matches the criteria and the quality. It gives me new hope (Do you see what I did there? Do you? Do you see?) for the prequels and spin-offs on the horizon, of which I was previously very wary. The film entertains, surprises, and manages to make the hard choices come the end that really raise it up to new heights in the revived franchise. I don’t want to put it on too much of a pedestal, but honestly, Rogue One should be the benchmark for Star Wars going forward.

My Rating: 9/10

Rogue One theatrical poster

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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