This review contains mild spoilers
Much to our surprise that the new story developed in Gareth Edwards’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story triumphantly fits the cramped belt between Episode 3 and 4. Never did we imagine that such conscious inset would be invented and work out well, without granting the details between the two episodes left behind and any plot hole emerges, as Rogue One is actually tailored as a spin-off.
Another surprise is the new gang succeeds the task of being a game changer to the war landscape between Empire and Rebel Alliance. They don’t confuse but instead open up a new horizon about the details happened back then when the hint of Force was almost gone and before the term of New Hope was echoed. In other words, this new gang is made to be the success key of any hope needed for the rest of the episodes.
Regardless of the anthology concept, Rogue One is undoubtedly entangled to all sister episodes, thus works out the old trilogy vibe and acts as an important hub for both trilogies. But still, Rogue One is a movie of its own and some rules just don’t apply. There’s an iconic appearance of Darth Vader but don’t expect to see Force and Lightsaber used much here as it’s not His war (yet). With the rebels, the war is more into tactical and physical, depending on strategy, timing, and luck. There’s no Jedi vs Jedi and that mind manipulation thing, cos in Rogue One, Force is believed has been long forgotten.
Unlike Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) whose story is started when Force is completely worn off thus becomes so progressive on emphasizing it through all events and characters, Rogue One starts off without Force and centers on a key event; during the terror of newly built Death Star.
However, with only minimum hint of Force, Rogue One is able to keep its grandeur safe. The new story is suffice, most importantly contextual and in conjunction with its predecessors. Every new character is built with a cause and gives a tremendous impact in succeeding the new backstory. There’s no need of creating new intergalactic species (read: no Ewok and Gungan WANTED) to live up a brand new space fantasy. Even the droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), is a stolen Empire’s droid whose memory is wiped by Rebel Alliance.
Jyn Erso’s Backstory
Rogue One explores the who and why behind the engineering of the space station slash deadly weapon through the past of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). Jyn’s father apparently is the super engineer behind the killer system of Death Star. Pretending to be on Empire side forsake young Jyn’s safety, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is now regarded as traitor and becomes a target to kill by Rebel Alliance. Nevertheless, Galen ought to be found and it’s assumed that only Jyn knowing his whereabout. Does she?
It was 15 years ago when young Jyn saw his father taken back to the Empire. Adult Jyn, now in both undercover and imprisoned state, should struggle for her own freedom. It’s the Rebel Alliance who frees and offers her a chance to start clean. But it’s not all about Jyn and herself as her relationship with the gang is mostly tense, particularly with the Rebel Alliance Officer, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Then comes an Empire’s defecting messenger pilot who triggers the pathfinding, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), who is sent by Galen to deliver an important information about annihilating the Death Star he built. Later we’re also introduced to Saw Gererra (Forest Whitaker), an old friend of Galen as well as a kind of godfather to Jyn, who pivots her doubt on Galen’s decision to rejoin Empire.
The Legacy of Girl Power
Given Jyn as a new heroine, this epic space saga continues its legacy to keep the girl power on board. What comes even more interesting is Jyn hands over an important role which later Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) takes in, makes Rogue One looks better as a prequel than a spin-off. And here lies the most intriguing part; Jyn and her gang are never told in both trilogies, makes them a revelation as well as legend as we can predict what their fate in the end of the story. Standing aside from the central plot might be the wisest decision to keep Rogue One looks unarguably special.
Jyn appears as a reluctant but she’s actually already a pro-hope even she once declines to join the war before knowing his father’s sacrifice. It’s only after Gerrera shows her Galen’s hologram transmission, Jyn realizes her prejudice and join as a rebel without any rank. Only if Jyn survives and teams up with Leia, Jyn has the chance to build a career, fills the clean slate she’s been promised.
Breaking All the Cinematic Rules
Rogue One looks better as a prequel thus deserves a number of episode (read: three point something?). But again, Rogue One is tailored to be stand-alone, thus breaking Star Wars’s cinematic rules including eliminating the opening crawl and any appearance of Jedi, proves no wrong.
As for the first, Rogue One shows no mercy on being a rebel, and the second, Rogue One persists to fight like real warriors. And the result is no disappointment. Equipped only with blasters, hand combat skills, guts, and little amount of luck, any fanboy must have enjoyed the felt-like-real battle plate. Not to forget it also serves Donnie Yen, a Chinese actor as well as martial artist, playing blind Chirrut Îmwe and performing some Wing Chun styles.
The field itself stretches beautifully on a tropical dry forest and beach of Scarif, a newly created planet to house the Death Star construction. And the final annihilation scene is epic; the sunset view along the beach line with the slowmo raging wave about to hit and wipe out mankind, giving a sense either Force is coming back or it actually never leaves even the slightest part of the saga alone.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelssen, Riz Ahmed
Duration: 133 mins