“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the first of many spin-offs to be announced by Disney and Lucasfilm to satisfy their goals of having a new Star Wars film released every year.
Filling in the gap between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope,” the film follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is tasked by the Rebel Alliance to find defected Imperial pilot Bodhi (Riz Ahmed), who has special information about a secret mega-weapon being built by the Intergalactic Empire capable of destroying planets. She agrees to find the pilot so that she can try to rescue her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the scientist who is forced to design the weapon for Imperial Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).
Jyn is accompanied by Rebel Intelligence Officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and a reprogrammed Imperial Enforcer Droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a blind warrior in tune with the force and his mercenary friend, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), to find Bodhi and obtain the information necessary to destroy the weapon, known as the Death Star, to give to the Rebels before it’s too late.
Director Gareth Edwards, “Monsters” and “Godzilla” (2014), continues to be one of the most frustrating filmmakers working today, as many of the problems from his previous films are carried over. He focuses so much on giving the film the best visual aesthetic possible that he forgets that the story and characters need to be engaging as well.
The first half of the film is sloppy in its editing and pacing, as the narrative jumps around to different planets and characters in a failed attempt to make the film feel busier. There isn’t much room for the audience to breathe and have time to develop the characters. It’s not until the film’s third act that the film finally picks up the pace and offers some decent eye-candy to wake up bored viewers (a similar fault with Edwards’ “Godzilla” film).
The film also features some appalling usage of CG facial restoration to shoehorn in appearances of Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) to make them look like they did in “A New Hope.” The effect doesn’t work as the way the skin is rendered makes them look too polished.
The cast tries their best with what little they are given, so it’s not entirely their fault that the characters are so bland you’d have to look at the film’s Wikipedia page just to find out what their names were. It doesn’t help that most of their dialogue is stale and repetitive, such as the word “hope” that’s obnoxiously repeated throughout the film. The one standout performance would be Yen, as he displays a fighting technique that feels fresh to the Star Wars universe.
The worst performance of the film is Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera, a rebel extremist who for a brief amount of time took care of Jyn in her youth. Whitaker delivers his lines in a raspy voice that occasionally cracks with a high pitch that ruins any attempt at taking his character seriously. While it’s not as bad as “Battlefield Earth,” it’s still an embarrassing piece of work.
The biggest issue with the film is the premise, as the film is based on one paragraph from the opening crawl of “A New Hope,” it has about as much depth as such with the characters and story. Thus, there’s a lack of suspense, because you know what has to happen in order for the events of “A New Hope” to take place. If the film never got made, nothing would be missed.
While it’s undeniable that last year’s “The Force Awakens” borrowed a lot from “A New Hope,” it at least gave us interesting characters in Finn and Rey and ended with enough room to explore for future episodes. “Rogue One” is just your average mega-blockbuster popcorn flick with good moments of action but with shallow characters to lead the narrative. Despite trying to fill in some blanks in “A New Hope,” the film has little to no impact on how you view that classic.
Aside from a few memorable shots and an action-packed finale, the film doesn’t have enough substance in it’s narrative to justify its existence in the Star Wars universe. Which is a shame, as the climactic beach raid and Darth Vader’s two scenes are some of the best Star Wars moments that have been glorified on the big screen (so far). At least the wait for “Episode 8” won’t be long.