Putting the war in Star Wars
There’s a lot to love about Rogue One. With the amount of production drama occurring where the director’s creative vision clashed under the executive weight of Disney, I was worried that such rushed reshoots would end up in the similar fate of the disastrous Suicide Squad. Well, thankfully such worries were not necessary. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a triumph of introducing darker, more mature themes into the beloved franchise about the one and only galaxy that is far, far away.
It is remarkable how different and yet similar this film feels in tonality. The beginning introduces the iconic title of “a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” but then cuts straight into space with an orchestral sforzando accent skipping the familiar opening crawl. What follows is the prologue establishing the origins of our female protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and how her father who helped design the Death Star is approached by the villain of our film: Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to resume his work forcibly. This film certainly feels more serious than The Force Awakens or any of the Original Trilogy. However, it does maintain the trademarks of swashbuckling, humourous intergalactic adventure that made all Star Wars what it was.
Jinn soon finds herself in the covert uprising (which is barely covert anymore even at this stage) of the Rebellion’s crusade against the oppressive Empire joining a Rebel intelligence officer played admirably by Diego Luna and a crew of diverse individuals in what ultimately becomes the acquisition of the first Death Star’s plans.
Now, the cast is incredibly diverse and that is a much-needed step in the right direction. Especially when it’s Disney with its notoriety and influence that has taken the helm. The characterization made on this diverse set of characters played by Hispanics, Asians and Whites alike blended smoothly into the overarching plot without making any singular character of this diverse cast feel forced and added in for the sake of novelty. This thankfully illustrates that an actor’s culture does not hinder the creative purposes of the storytelling if the writing is done right.
Now much media attention has been paid in how much homage this film has towards war movies. There is definitely influences of breathtaking cinematography and performance with examples like Luna watching Apocalypse Now every month just for reference in crafting some of the action scenes. There are also many mentions that this film has an essence of Saving Private Ryan in it especially in the tropical beach war scenes featured later at the Battle of Scarif. That can only be somewhat true if you realized the immense attention to detail and context that Spielberg incorporated when he constructed that iconic beach scene of cinematic history. As a war film buff that has watched classics like Kubrick’s Paths of Glories (1957) as well as modern ones like The Hurt Locker (2008), the tale of Rogue One is only a stepping stone in what a true war movie encompasses. What I would give for a Star Wars film centered just around a soldier or squad of the Rebel Alliance or Empire in their respective peril-filled tours of duty. This would have serious cinematic potential and has been done to huge success in many Star Wars spin-off comics. Heck, they could just adapt the novel of Star Wars: Lost Stars. That lead up to the Battle of Jakku has a great tale of two best friends fighting on opposite sides of the Galactic Civil War.
Edwards does a great job in highlighting how desperate and dangerous being a Rebel is. Whilst other star wars films have focused on the lighter, funner sides in the fight against evil in the galaxy, Rogue One offers a boots on the ground exploration into the Imperial influence over the galaxy during a very dark time. The inclusion of many characters such as Vader, Tarkin and Bail Organa do not come across as pushovers in a tale neatly wooven to set up The New Hope. It just does fan service in the most subtle satisfying ways in what is shown. The writers for this film has done an amazing job.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is my second favourite Star Wars film behind The Empire Strikes Back. It does an exceptional job of being the prelude to a New Hope adding a new layer of depth to the iconic franchise. I look forward to more of these intriguing films to explore the gargantuan wonders of the Star Wars mythos.
Star Wars: Rogue One is in cinemas now!