‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ Review: The Star Wars Prequel We All Deserve

Here’s our review for ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ where the new filmmakers behind the ‘Star Wars’ saga finally get it right…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

When Disney purchased Lucasfilm for a ridiculous amount of money — $4 billion to be exact — the company quickly announced plans to launch a brand new ‘Star Wars’ trilogy as well as several spinoff films.

The strategy was to put out a new ‘saga’ film every two years with the spinoff films filling up the gaps so a new ‘Star Wars’ movie would be released each and every year. The first of those spinoff films will officially land in theaters on Friday as ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ tells the tale behind the rebel spies who stole the plans for the first Death Star ahead of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’.

The announcement of the movie was met with enthusiasm because this was one of a few ‘Star Wars’ stories that had never really been told and it would fill in a crucial piece of information that led to the epic first film released in 1977.

Then there were rumors of script problems and reshoots that had more than a few ‘Star Wars’ fan boys and girls worried what director Gareth Edwards would do with ‘Rogue One’ on the heels of a very successful return for the franchise with 2015’s ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ directed by J.J. Abrams.

As it turns out, ‘Rogue One’ A Star Wars Story’ ended up as the best prequel film that’s ever been made — far superior to the bad effects and lazy storytelling that made up the first three movies that started with ‘Phantom Menace’ and ended with ‘Revenge of the Sith’.

‘Rogue One’ not only told a relevant story, but the film also managed to introduce a brand new cast of characters, while interlacing a slew of references throughout the movie that paid homage to the original ‘Star Wars’ film and beyond.

Add to that, Darth Vader makes a massive return in this film and this lone appearance makes you forget all about the whiny, hammed up performance of Hayden Christensen that played a large part in the first three prequels falling flat. Instead, Darth Vader is back to being the ominous, force of evil who wants nothing more than to crush the Rebellion and he even wields his lightsaber in a truly eye popping scene that will have you chomping popcorn while sitting on the edge of your seat.

For all the ways George Lucas came up short when he tried to tell the back story connecting the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy to the past, ‘Rogue One’ gets it so right that you kind of hope Lucasfilm will eventually commission more writers and directors to delve into Anakin Skywalker’s transformation to Darth Vader or maybe even a more detailed — and hopefully coherent — version of the Clone Wars.

For now, let’s just say ‘Rogue One’ is the ‘Star Wars’ prequel we’ve all been waiting for and it’s finally here.

Plot

The Galactic Empire has ruled the galaxy for several years already but power can’t just be maintained — it must grow. So over the past couple of decades with the help of a genius scientist named Galen Erso, the Empire has begun construction on the ultimate weapon known as the Death Star, which is so powerful that it’s been dubbed a ‘planet killer’. Meanwhile, the Rebel Alliance has been fighting back against the evil Empire at every turn but the introduction of such a deadly weapon could bring their war to a dramatic end.

The only way to battle back is by stopping this weapon from coming online and that’s going to require the help of Galen Erso’s long lost daughter Jyn Erso, who lost her father when the Empire took him away to work on the Death Star while she was just a child.

Now it’s up to Jyn and a rag tag group of rebels, turncoats, droids and faithful followers of the Force to find the blueprints behind the Death Star in an attempt to destroy the weapon before it can be unleashed on the universe.

Acting

What a wonderfully diverse cast of characters make up ‘Rogue One’ with Felicity Jones leading the way as Jyn Erso and it’s no surprise that she’s outstanding considering this is an Academy Award nominated actress we’re talking about. While Jones is certainly the centerpiece for the crux of the story, the supporting actors and actresses around her are just as memorable.

Diego Luna is the latest Rebel captain looking to take a stab at the Empire while his wise cracking droid voiced by Alan Tudyk is another in a long long of famous ‘Star Wars’ robots who steal the show.

Ben Mendelsohn is both menacing and meddlesome as Director Orson Krennic, who is the Imperial leader behind the construction of the Death Star and he desperately wants credit for building such a monstrous and awesome weapon yet it’s more likely the Emperor doesn’t even know his name.

Add in some old favorites in CGI form plus there’s no better moment than hearing James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader again to make this a ‘Star Wars’ movie to remember.

Directing and Writing

Gareth Edwards deserves a ton of credit for making ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ feel like a movie that truly fit in the pantheon of the actual Star Wars story. Not to keep digging on the George Lucas prequels, but those movies felt so slick and over produced that it looked like they took place in the future rather than the past.

Edwards manages to make his film feel like it really is taking place just before the events in ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ whether that’s the ships he’s using during the battle scenes or the grit and grimy look of the landscape in a galaxy being squashed under the thumb of the evil Galactic Empire.

The script ultimately tells three separate stories all packed into one movie, but it never feels like too much but rather a trio of chapters that all lead to a mind blowing end. The dialogue is cutting and the emotion is all too real.

The end of the movie — no spoilers — will leave you with a tear rolling down your cheek while also gasping for air. It’s that good.

What’s Wrong with the Movie?

Truthfully, ‘Rogue One’ feels like a pitch perfect addition to the ‘Star Wars’ saga with the only down side being you’ll need more time run home and immediately watch ‘A New Hope’ because that’s how well this story ties into the original trilogy.

There is a bit of a slow burn through the first two acts of the movie before finally unleashing the final push as the Rebels truly go after the plans for the Death Star, but those moments are crucial for the emotional rallying cry that gets us through that third and final chapter in this film.

If you truly enjoy well crafted storytelling while getting invested in a new cast of characters joining the ‘Star Wars’ universe, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a little stage setting before everything explodes in the end.

Final Verdict

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is a movie that can be enjoyed by any ‘Star Wars’ fan no matter how fanatical they might be. Casual watchers will enjoy the back story that leads to ‘A New Hope’ and more hardcore fans will view this film with mouths gaped open at all the little bread crumbs that leave a trail to the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy.

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ gets a five out of five on the Skolnick Scale. ‘Rogue One’ is in theaters this Friday.

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