I saw the movie today at 10am in a theater populated by about ten folks. The downside to that is that there wasn’t a rapid theater full of Star Wars geeks who cheered at every single Easter egg thrown in the mix. And let me tell you: the Easter eggs were numerous and fun. I’ll actually have to wait for someone to catalog them all to determine if I caught them all. I don’t think I did, but I caught most of’em.
One of the reasons I was looking forward to Rogue One was that it wasn’t a saga movie, i.e., one with a number. As great as the Star Wars movies have been up to now, basically, they’re all about the same family and their friends. Finally, we’d get a film that wasn’t about a Skywalker or a daddy issue. We went one for two there. It’s not about a Skywalker—although there is one in here; the one who dresses in black—but there is a daddy issue. As much as you might groan that this will be the 8th Star Wars film (i.e., all of them) to deal with familial issues, you also have to know that this is a pattern. Plus, it’s a Disney film, so there you go.
Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, a young woman whose dad, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is an Imperial engineer in charge of building the structure known as the Death Star. At the start of the film, a young Jyn sees her mom killed and her dad recaptured. She escapes, but, by the time Jones fills the character’s shoes, she’s a twentysomething in an Imperial prison camp.
And she’s rescued by the new group calling itself the Rebellion. There’s a character, played by Forest Whitiker, who is an estranged member of the Rebel Alliance but now needs to be joined if the Rebels are going to take on the Empire. Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera is a veteran of the Clone Wars, but he’s also the man who raised young Jyn after her parents were taken from her. To the Rebels, Jyn’s their key to get in the door with being killed. For Jyn, it’s a chance to not be in jail.
Naturally, plans go asunder. And a Star Wars movie unfolds.
There is lots to like about this film. I stayed away from all written content about this film and have only dipped a toe in it now, but the vibe you get from this film is gritty, street-level realism—or as real as a Star Wars film can get. In this movie, you see Stormtroopers who can shoot straight and they kill people. You have opponents of the Empire likewise shooting and killing. One way to look at this film is as one who has earned the word “Wars” in its title. In many respects, this is a World War II film masquerading in the Star Wars universe.
And that is not a bad thing. At all. I quite enjoyed it.
There is a gloominess to this film, much as there was with Episode III, the last of the prequel films that led into the original Star Wars film, but there had to be. The first film’s subsequent subtitle is “A New Hope,” but for there to be the need for a new hope, you have to get rid of the old hope. And you have to lead into the urgency that opens the original 1977 Star Wars film. The ending gives you that, but not before introducing you to new characters, new worlds, and new experiences.
There’s a certain action figure quality to this movie. Have we seen Star Wars on the beach? Nope. Then let’s do a beach set piece. Have we seen Star Wars in the rain? Nope. Then let’s do something there. Nothing wrong with that. Lucas did it in every movie he made, and I quite liked the beach battles. There’s also yet another desert planet in this movie, and the set piece here is a claustrophobic ambush/assault. It worked very well. Most of the ideas and concepts you may have seen before, but as seen through the Star Wars lens and in the Star Wars universe managed to make them fresh again.
I’m about to get into spoiler territory, but I wanted to leave this thought up here, so most readers can read it. I’m so glad that folks my age who saw the original Star Wars film in 1977 and became steeped in this universe have now become the filmmakers of today. They can now take their devotion and passion for this material and throw in the Easter eggs and winks and nods for the long-time fans. Ditto Marvel movies and DC TV shows. It’s a great time to have all of these wonderful movies made for us.
And, with that, I’ll go ahead and end the spoiler-free part of the review and say I enjoyed Rogue One quite a bit, actually felt the bite of tears in a couple of places (yeah, yeah, I know) and delighted in the Easter eggs. A worthy addition to the canon.
Now, on to the spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
Still giving you a chance to turn away.
Jyn running into Walrus Man and the other guy who eventually accosts Luke. Love it!
Seeing more of the Yavin base. So, so good.
Seeing many of the male cast members having grown 1970s mustaches.
The namedropping of “Whills” in regards to what the blind mystic and his bodyguard are doing on the desert planet. The term Whills is from the opening quote from the original Star Wars novelization.
The Kaiburr crystal! Those were first seen in Alan Dean Foster’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye novel that came out in 1978. Talk about taking something from out of the blue.
Oh, and blue milk.
Speaking of Splinter, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as much as I’m loving all the films that have come since, arguably the best time ever to be a Star Wars fan was 1977-1980. The universe was vast, the mysteries were great, and Vader wasn’t Luke’s father.
Speaking of Vader, going in, I wanted one thing more than anything: I wanted him to be bad. Evil. The guy who chokes various Imperial officers if they get on his bad side. Evil Vader was here. In spades. And it was so, so good! Loved it. We got to see Prequel saber stuff in the older trilogy.
Threepio and Artoo. Wasn’t really expecting it, but it was nice.
Mon Motha in the Yavin base. Nicely done.
Tarkin. I had heard he was in the film, but I expected him not to be on screen. It was a little odd, I’ll admit, in the same way The Polar Express is odd, seeing the CGI version of Peter Cushing talking and interacting. It wasn’t quite all there, but I’m really glad they tried.
And I’m really glad they did it with Leia, too. Got goosebumps and happy tears. But hers was a little more odd than Tarkin’s.
Nice to see Jimmy Smits back.
Really loved K-2SO and Alan Tudyk’s performance. His jokes were great, but I actually groaned at the “I have a bad feeling about this” but, then again, it’s now a Star Wars tradition.
Really, really love the blind mystic Chirrut Îmwe. I loved that his was not a Jedi but could feel the Force. From a religious standpoint, not ashamed to say that when Chirrut Îmwe started chanting “I am with the Force and the Force is with me” and walked across the battlefield to turn on the master switch, I teared up. I loved his faith in the Force. And then his mercenary friend took up the mantle and chant. Very powerful stuff.
Jyn’s pendant. That was a Kaiburr crystal, right?
Oh, and the music. Enjoyed it. I like Michael Giacchino’s work on Star Trek and the Pixar films, but his music on Doctor Strange (save the end credits piece) sounded a bit like Star Trek to me. But I was very pleased with his work with John Williams’ themes. Giacchino’s delicate use of old themes to go along with new ones was well done.
I’ve probably forgotten a few, but those are the ones that stand out.