I was at a wedding a few months ago. Good wedding. Lovely couple. After all the nice weddingy stuff had finished up, a DJ leaped up toward his decks, fired up the music and a dance floor broke out. After a few well-earned beers, I felt that was ready to go show those young’uns how it’s done. Yet with every song, it was as though the DJ was doing his absolute best to suppress my urge to dance. Watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tonight, that same feeling of being denied my instinct came over me. I love Star Wars, and yet Disney seems to be doing all it can to tear that love away from me. Is this a tenuous analogy? I don’t care. It’s all I have.
While possessing a high degree of enthusiasm for the potential of stand-alone Star Wars films, of which Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first, I have taken issue with the manner in which Disney has decided to approach them. With an entire galaxy and thousands of years of history to play with, the first stand alone film largely and directly relates to the events in A New Hope. There is a Han Solo origins movie on the way as well as rumours of a Boba Fett movie. There’ll undoubtedly be more than that.
Some things are best left untouched. Some things are best left to the imagination and I don’t believe that we need everything in George Lucas’ original trilogy examined and augmented to the point that it all simply loses value. That being said, each film ought to be judged on its own merit, without negative predispositions, and so despite my misgivings regarding the direction that Disney has taken with these stand alone films, I ventured into Rogue One with an open mind and an eagerness to put The Force Awakens behind me.
Rogue One takes place shortly before the events of the very first Star Wars film release (but the fourth episode in the saga), A New Hope. As a young girl, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) witnesses her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) being dragged away by Imperial officer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Flash forward a few years and Jyn as a young woman is recruited by the Rebellion to help locate Galen, who has become the scientific brain behind the construction of the Death Star. If you don’t know what the Death Star is, then this review and this film isn’t for you. Rogue One panders to established Star Wars fans but allows little for the uninitiated.
Since we already know the overall outcome of the narrative in Rogue One, strong characters are absolutely crucial to maintain engagement. We know that the Rebels recover the plans for the Death Star and we know that the Death Star is destroyed (sorry for spoiler for A New Hope, but it’s nearly forty years old and why are you reading this review if you haven’t even seen it?).
What we don’t know is whether Jyn and her haphazardly thrown together team, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and the droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) survive their attempts to find Galen and recover the Death Star plans. Watching Rogue One, I didn’t care. Edwards has conceived a galaxy alive with potential and filled it with actors that have only engaging costume design to offer.