There are a few things you should know before you read this review. I am a huge Star Wars fan. I saw the original in the theaters, way back when, something like twenty times. I have an entire bookcase of just Star Wars novels. I’ve played several versions of the role-playing games, both Galaxies and Old Republic. I’m enjoying the current Marvel Comics series. So I was really excited about Rogue One.
Rogue One tells the story of a key piece of Star Wars history that’s never really been dealt with in detail: how did those plans get to Princess Leia at the beginning of the first movie? Aside from a few lines of dialogue, that story wasn’t really told until now.
This is different from the other Star Wars movies in several ways. We see the Empire at the height of its power, and the Rebels don’t really have their act together. They do a great job of bringing back characters from the first movie, via CGI (Grand Moff Tarkin, Princess Leia) or some really good recasting (Mon Mothma, head of the Rebellion, and General Dodonna, their military commander). Rogue One also doesn’t have the opening text crawl, like every other movie has. I really missed that.
Essentially, we see a rag-tag band of outsiders come together for an impossible mission (of course). There’s a lot of action, fighting, and special effects. The group of Rebels (what do you call a group that doesn’t obey the orders of a rebellion?) makes several stops to find the plans to the Death Star and get them to the Rebels so they can find a way to halt the massive weapon.
The group includes Jyn Erso, orphan of the civil war; Cassian Andor, Rebel Intelligence; K-2SO, the required crazy droid; Chirrut Imwe, a not-quite Jedi; Baze Malbus, heavily-armed bad-ass; and Bohdi Rook, pilot. They take on impossible odds for their longshot desperate quest. I’m trying hard to avoid spoilers, but I will say this is a much darker movie than the other Star Wars films.
By the end of it, the pieces are in place for the famous beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope. There’s even a cameo by a certain pair of droids. I’d call it a good, but not great, movie. I can think of any number of stories from the now-erased “Expanded Universe” of the novels that would have been more fun and a better story.
What I liked: There was a lot of action, adventure, and humor. There were some great lines. It was an in-depth look at what happened immediately before Star Wars (yeah, call it A New Hope if you like, it’ll always be Star Wars to me). I liked the characters, particularly K-2SO.
What I didn’t: This was really dark for Star Wars. I’d say it was in the Star Wars universe, but it didn’t really have the feel of a Star Wars movie. Jyn’s big line in nearly every commercial is, “It’s a Rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.” That line was nowhere in the cut of the movie I saw. I really missed the opening crawl and, even more importantly, the John Williams music. The music in this one was blandly in the background.
I wanted to love this. I liked it. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5.