Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Review)

Star Wars: Rogue One poster - Credit: Lucasfilm

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On 13 December, 2016
Last modified:8 April, 2017

UK Release: 16 December 2016


Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang

It’s the Star Wars story we’ve all been waiting for…

Whether you realised it or not.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story brings us into uncharted territory within the galaxy far, far away. It’s the first ever big screen Star Wars spin-off… and it’s got quite a story to tell. It’s no secret that Rogue One follows a band of scrappy Rebels as they fight to secure the Death Star plans – the ones that appear in the original trilogy.

But what you didn’t know is just how epic this story really is.

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It’s an action which sets the entire Star Wars saga on course.

Without the Death Star plans, the Rebellion wouldn’t have been able to stop the Empire. Perhaps more importantly, Princess Leia never would have loaded that iconic holographic message onto R2-D2, he never would have set off in that escape pod with C-3PO and they never would have encountered Luke Skywalker.

It’s a pivotal moment which started everything.

But this is the story of the unknown rebels who got us there.

Star Wars: Rogue One Jyn Erso Felicity Jones

 

Introducing Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) – a young upstart and drifter who’s constantly up against the Empire. She’s in and out of trouble, and for good reason – she may not know it yet, but she’s a rebel at heart.

She also happens to be the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen).

Why is that so important? And who the hell is Galen Erso? Well, it turns out he’s a brilliant scientist whose work is wanted by the Empire in order to develop the Death Star technology. And after his wife is killed by stormtroopers and his daughter is forced into hiding, he has no choice but to work for the enemy.

Thankfully, he has a plan…

Rather brilliantly, Rogue One rewrites history. Star Wars fans have often made jokes about the man who designed the Death Star… and his dodgy thermal exhaust port. But now it looks as though it was designed that way on purpose. Galen Erso didn’t want the Empire to succeed so he did what he could to topple them in secret – building a weakness into the designs which could be exploited by the rebellion… and with the help of former-Empire pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) he gets the word out that he knows how to bring the Death Star down.

Star Wars Rogue One Stormtrooper

It’s an interesting take on a story we never knew we wanted to see… and it gives us a gritty look at how the rebellion works. It isn’t pretty. The good guys aren’t always right. And they don’t always play by the book. In fact, we see various shades of grey throughout – from the enigmatic ‘extremist’ Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) to the slightly-shady Rebel Alliance spy, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). It’s the side of the rebellion we rarely get to see, but it’s a wonderful insight into the fight back against the Empire.

And it shows us just how far they’re willing to go to win.

Star Wars Rogue One Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones is outstanding as Jyn Erso. She’s every bit the strong female Star Wars star everyone hoped she would be. She holds her own, she knows how to use a gun, and she’s fiercely loyal to her allies… all with a healthy hatred for the Empire.

But the big star? K-2SO (Alan Tudyk).

Star Wars: Rogue One

Alan Tudyk gets some excellent one-liners, and there’s a frankly-hilarious scene where Cassian, Jyn and K-2SO are spotted where they shouldn’t be by Imperial stormtroopers. Amazingly, K-2SO improvises – being a former-Imperial droid, he pretends he’s taking prisoners to their allotted holding area, giving his master a firm backhander in the process. Amazingly, he’s not just comic relief, either. He has some interesting comments to make about his human counterparts along the way, and by the end of the movie you really care about the quirky, no-nonsense droid.

And the end of the movie is where the entire cast really shines.

I won’t go into too much detail, but the entire film has been building to this moment – the pivotal theft of the Death Star plans. We know they pull it off, of course they do. But what happens along the way is bold, beautiful and a perfect way to end the story of Rogue One.

Speaking of endings, the very final scenes of Rogue One are just perfect.

Star Wars Rogue One Ben Mendelsohn

We know that Rogue One has to dovetail into the original trilogy – after all, Star Wars: A New Hope shows Princess Leia escaping with the Death Star plans at the very start of the movie. And Rogue One doesn’t disappoint.

On that note, the entire movie feels like it’s part of the original trilogy. It’s obvious that a huge amount of work has gone into recreating the look and feel of the original Star Wars films, giving Rogue One a modern-yet-nostalgic feel. It’s a new story, sure… but it could easily fit in alongside the original movies. The special effects are fantastic, and the physical props and costumes used bring us right back to the Star Wars we know and love.

Sure, there’s some CGI – in particular, some controversial scenes using motion capture.

But does it work? Honestly, I think it does. Although there have been some complaints that it’s just not quite perfect, I feel it does the job. It’s a lot better in shorter scenes – there’s one long monologue in particular that really highlights that it’s not a real actor on the screen. But overall, the motion capture scenes work. And it allows us to experience the return of a hugely important character which simply wouldn’t have been possible without it.

Overall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a welcome return to the galaxy far, far away. I have to admit – it’s everything I wanted it to be. It’s nostalgic, but not overly so… and it’s a perfectly-formed new story in the time of the original Star Wars trilogy.

And it’s in my top three Star Wars movies of all time.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story heads to cinemas on 16 December 2016.

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What did you think of Star Wars: Rogue One? Did it live up to your expectations? Let us know what you think in the comments below…

About the Author

Ryan Leston is the Editor-In-Chief of Total Geeks. He's a big sci-fi nerd from Cardiff who loves all things Star Wars. His favourite Star Wars film is The Empire Strikes Back and he still wants to be Han Solo when he grows up.