There’s been much talk about Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One requiring reshoots to address a grittiness more associated with war films. Whether we’ll see Stormtroopers writing home to a loved one they’ll never see again and puking into their helmets as their landing craft hits a faraway beach is about to be answered
If you’re the sort who drops their coffee mug at first sight of a Star Destroyer casting a shadow within a planet’s atmosphere without considering how this might be gravitationally possible then there’s little you won’t already know about this film. But for those not sleeping under a Salacious B. Crumb duvet cover, it’s basically a film based upon a line from the original Star Wars’ introduction crawl – ‘Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR.’
This is a weapon of such magnitude that it can only be spelled in capital letters. Rogue One is set in those halcyon days of the Empire, before they had two DEATH STARS blown up and started constructing a third without anyone pointing out the poor statistical chances of its survival. This film is essential Episode 3 ½. There are no spoilers here, at least none that can compete with the 2 hrs 5 mins of Episode 4, which picks up where this film finishes quicker than you can drop coffee mugs at the sight of Star Destroyers within a planet’s atmosphere.
Rogue One is a good name, and explains the radio call codes in episode 4. It is a rogue one, as it’s the first time for no introductory crawl. Nor, thankfully are there any battle droids from the prequels, with their propensity for throwing themselves at enemy laser fire with all the intelligence of Red Setters chasing donuts off cliffs. Mind you, Stormtroopers still shoot with all the accuracy of a bent shotgun.
The Force Awakens introduced new characters by mixing them with the old. This brings us Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, who unlike Rey, (who appeared to be taking a break from exam revision rather than scrap metal scavenging) is someone you would follow into battle. Which is lucky, because the film grabs your bootstraps and never lets go, other than the occasional motivational speech about hope that the addressees are probably only half listening to anyway. It certainly gives episode 4’s title A New Hope new meaning.
It’s still Star Wars: there’s a pessimistic droid (K-2SO) obsessed with statistical chances of survival – I bet the Imperials wish he’d been there in the DEATH STAR planning meeting. There are also the familiar man-made chasms and ravines of space stations, and even the iconic silhouettes of dutiful guards in watchtowers of Yavin 4. There’s even a cameo from Walrus Face from the Tatooine canteen. But it’s the explosions that are most, well, striking. They’re stunning, as is much of the cinematography. There was even a moment in the fantastically depicted holy city of Jedha, in which it was impossible not to think of those poor people trapped in war torn Aleppo.
There was an admirably restrained use of a certain Darth Vader. Edwards could have milked the opportunity for extra screen time with the dark lord, but in fact it’s expertly rationed, and all the more powerful for it. Most importantly it erases the memory of Jim Henson muppets destroying the imperial Empire on Endor, via far more authentic action that doesn’t involve destroying top-grade military equipment with logs. Even more importantly, it addresses why the original DEATH STAR had such a vulnerable air duct resulting in its destruction.
Rogue One is basically the Star Wars universe, but not quite as we know it. It’s like filming a royal ball but focusing upon what’s happening in the kitchen. It’s not as unashamedly entertaining as the swashbuckling originals, or The Force Awakens. But, dare I say it, it’s more realistic, including the tiniest details for die-hard fans. And speaking of royalty, the end segues into episode 4 with such speed and ease that you barely realise it’s happened.
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