By Ian Ong, Co-Student Life Editor
Over the weekend, I had the privilege of watching Disney’s Rogue One, which at the time of this writing has grossed a whopping $323 million worldwide. And the hype is well deserved.
Chronologically, Rogue One is a prequel which takes place after Revenge of the Sith and is followed minutes after by the first movie of the original Star Wars trilogy, A New Hope. However, thanks to skilled direction and breathtaking visuals, the two-hour-long motion picture is able to stand alone in its depiction of the epic struggle between the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, finding its very own place in the fantastic Star Wars canon.
Felicity Jones stars as the film’s protagonist Jyn Erso, an Alliance sergeant and the daughter of Jalen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a genius scientist whisked away by the Empire to finish construction on the Death Star, a galactic superweapon capable of obliterating planets. On her quest to find her father as well as secure the plans to the Death Star, Jyn is accompanied by Rebel officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a droid named K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) and blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen). While the element of surprise is absent from the storyline—we all know the rebels do in fact succeed in securing the plans—the point of Rogue One is to showcase the journey, not the destination.
Viewers of Rogue One will be taken aback by grandiose depictions of planets, stars and interstellar vantage points. Jyn and her squadron visit the worlds of Jedha, Eadu and Scarif, dividing the film neatly into different settings and providing constant changes in scenery so as not to bore viewers. In terms of comic relief, Rogue One does it right, with witty and sarcastic droid K-2SO delivering some of the best one-liners in the film, brightening up otherwise bleak scenes. Viewers will find themselves cheering for Chirrut Îmwe, who imparts the irony of being a blind warrior able to take out hordes of stormtroopers or walk through a barrage of enemy fire miraculously unharmed. Dedicated fans are certainly not forgotten by Rogue One, which includes a wealth of cameo appearances and recognizable characters. For example, there’s the scene with a certain gold-colored protocol droid and three-legged white astromech. While Rogue One presents a multitude of likable personalities and memorable scenes, that is not to say the movie has its fair share of flaws. Cassian’s persona and his relationship to Jyn were not as fleshed out as I had hoped, and at times the writing attempts to hold the attention of the viewer with drama were on the edge of cheesiness. The movie also experiences some pacing issues, causing less patient viewers to doze off during the slower first half of the flick. However, its interplanetary antics and bursts of clever dialogue more than make up for its deficits, leaving viewers wanting even more of their favorite Star Wars heroes and villains.
Do not go into Rogue One expecting anything. Its plot is rife with large scale space war, infantry units and aerial attack sequences, more reminiscent of the saga’s title (Star Wars) then the traditional space opera format. It is a story of bloodshed, oppression and Felicity Jones’s prospect that “rebellions are built on hope.” By having viewers experience firsthand the struggles of Jyn and Cassian in securing the plans to the Death Star, Rogue One showcases gritty battle sequences and adds a fresh sense of urgency to its successor, A New Hope, allowing viewers to see the events of the classic film from a different angle. The film caters to a wide audience by design, entertaining with sci-fi action yet supplying crucial lore for hardcore Star Wars fans, allowing it to become a truly memorable episode within George Lucas’s mystical universe. So this holiday season, grab a blanket, equip your plastic Darth Vader lightsaber and head down to the theater because Rogue One is one essential film that you are sure to hear praise about from your colleagues, relatives and geek friends for months to come.
Ian Ong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org