Rogue One: A Star Wars Story earns its place in the franchise

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” has earned its place among the rest of the beloved series. Unique in the franchise as being the first true spin-off movie, it takes Star Wars in a new direction with a darker and more mature tone.  

The movie follows a band of Rebels in their mission to steal the plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the planet killing space station called The Death Star. Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, a tough young woman wronged by the Empire at a young age. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a rebel intelligence officer who has done terrible things in the name of the rebellion, joins her in the quest for the plans.

During their journey, this pair is joined by the droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), the blind but force sensitive warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), mercenary and friend of Chirrut Bodhi Rook (Jiang Wen), imperial defector Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

Opposing our heroes is Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the ruthless and power hungry Imperial officer overseeing the Death Star’s construction.

The acting of the cast as a whole was good, and particularly that of Felicity Jones and Ben Mendelsohn. While I could definitely feel the emotional pain of Jyn, I could also sense the ambition and power brought forth by Krennic.

Many unexpected cameos are seen throughout the film, and while I will not spoil them, expect many familiar faces at many turns. The much anticipated appearances of Darth Vader, voiced once again by James Earl Jones, were, while limited, sufficiently bad-ass.

The movie is filled to the brim with fan service. From a lingering shot on some blue milk in the beginning of the film, the same seen in Luke’s home in “A New Hope,” to a brief shot of some soon-to-be armless thugs who are seen in the cantina in “A New Hope.” While some may see such shots as unnecessary, I felt they were fun references that helped build the movie’s connection to the rest of the trilogy.

The new darker, more violent tone is seen throughout the film. From the casual execution of an injured stormtrooper to Krennic’s ruthless murder of imperial scientists, this film has many scenes that set it apart from other films in the franchise. Ultimately, I felt that such a tone was successfully utilized and led to the film having increased intensity and emotional impact.

The CGI was spot on, and it was near impossible to tell what was a practical effect and what was not. This made the battle scenes stunningly beautiful.

Where the film truly suffered was its score. That’s not to say it was awful, but Star Wars movies have always had such incredible music that the so-so nature of this film’s soundtrack was very apparent. I felt that many scenes lost a lot of impact because the music that accompanied them just was not up to the task.

In addition to this, the final planet seen, and the location of some of the most emotional and important moments of the film, the tropical world of Scarif, was a poor location choice for such scenes. The island looked like a wonderful paradise, and thus conflicted completely with the feelings of the scene that took place on it.

Finally, the movie could have had a better overall flow to it. It moves far too fast in the beginning of the film. One second they are on one planet, and the next and entirely new one. It is somewhat convoluted. That said, the movie mostly settles itself out near the middle of the film.

While this is not the best Star Wars movie, it definitely is not the worst. It was an extremely entertaining movie despite its flaws, and I have already seen it more than once. If you are a Star Wars fan, you will enjoy it. If you are not a Star Wars fan, it seems now is the time to join the club.

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