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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) - Movie Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first stand-alone anthology film in the franchise and is set right before the events of Episode 4: A New Hope. The story follows a group of rebels which leads the charge for retrieving the plans that could aid the rebel alliance in destroying the Death Star. 

Now I was really hyped for this movie ever since it was announced for various reasons:
  • First Star Wars stand-alone film.
  • Gareth Edwards directing it. (I loved Godzilla 2014) 
  • War movie feel which caters to my Battlefront fan side. 
  • Curiosity and anticipation for how they would end it, which, knowing the story, would be great if they don't veer away from it too much. 
And suffice to say that the movie met my expectations and more. 

The main rebel team i.e. Rogue One was likable. Each character was fun in their own way. They were led by Felicity Jones, who plays Jyn Erso, daughter of the Death Star architect. She did a good enough job in the time she was given and was pretty badass. My favorite character from the Rogue One team, easily, was K-2SO, this reprogrammed imperial security droid voiced by Alan Tudyk. Star Wars gets their droid right, and this was no exception. 

One the antagonist side, we got Ben Mendelsohn playing Orsen Krennic, the man responsible for the Death Star, and I thought he was a decent villain for this movie. It was nice seeing some of the dynamics of power between the empire via Krennic. He was in a sticky spot, and that gave more weight to his behavior and reasoning. Darth Vader was also in this movie but don't go into this thinking this will be his show, it's not. He was very sparsely used. Let's just say for now that they properly understood 'quality over quality'. 

Now, from the get-go, I enjoyed the tone of the movie. It had a serious, dark and grittier feel to it, alongside a War movie feel which I always wanted in a Star Wars film. But it wasn't overly dark or completely serious like many are saying. There is a proper amount of humor in it, mostly concentrated to the character K-2SO. Some great one-liners and chuckle moments. There is enough of it that it keeps the movie from becoming too serious, but at the same time, it doesn't detract from the justified serious tone of the movie. 

Being a prequel, I really enjoyed how the movie enrichened the already established lore of this universe like we got to see more of the rebel alliance and their workings, giving insight that they are not so squeaky clean as other films have depicted them, grounding their cause more. It managed to deliver a backstory as well as fixing some big and classic problems of A New Hope, which is my favorite Star Wars film, so I was ecstatic. Honestly, all I could think after watching Rogue One (Other than re-watching it right away) was to go home and start A New Hope. It has added a whole new layer to that movie, and that is simply awesome. It accomplished what a great prequel should do. 

Since the movie, chronologically, takes place between Episode 3 and Episode 4, but being mostly a direct prequel to A New Hope (Episode 4), it did an amazing job of melding in. There were a lot of references in the movie from A New Hope, Revenge of the Sith and other areas, and I enjoyed them. They really added to the continuity feel of the movie in this timeline. Some were a bit too on the nose but that's just a little nit-pick. 

The movie looked phenomenal. Since Gareth Edwards was directing it, his sense of scale, which he so masterfully displayed in Godzilla (2014), returned refined. The Empire never looked so powerful and threatening like it did in this movie. Edward's tantalizing imagery truly gave a lot of weight to the entire film. The beautiful cinematography was backed by outstanding CGI. Apart from two CGI characters, the special effects were flawless. They melded perfectly with the scenes, whether it be a land shattering explosion or a large scale battle. 

This brings me to the action sequences. Boy oh boy were they splendid. Ground battles, in-atmosphere air battles, space battles, it was all there. And it all looked better than ever. The final act of this movie was epic beyond belief. They had the balls to take it where it needed to go and deliver it in such a way that it really satisfied my WAR portion of the inner Star Wars fan. And as mentioned earlier, Vader had quality over quantity, and this is where the bulk of it was released. And even though this was not his movie, Vader ended up having the best DAMN scene, not only in the film but arguably in the entire saga.

The movie had a decent/good score and it was reminiscent of the typical Star Wars themes, with a new twist to them. But it wasn't great, which was disappointing to me considering Micheal Giacchino composed it, and I love his other works. But I don't blame him since he only had a month to compose the entire score as Alexander Desplat was initially on board as the composer but couldn't return during re-shoots, so Giacchino was brought in at the last minute. The movie sorely needed some like 'Duel of the Fates' to match its visual epicness. 

Alas, the movie wasn't perfect. Since there were so many new characters in the movie, character development got flimsy, and that sucked since all of the main characters were quite likable and I would have loved more backstory/development. The first 30 mins were too fast paced and the movie jumped from location to location, introducing places and characters, but without any breathing room, it felt a bit choppy. Here, it could have used another 15-20 mins to flesh out everything more. Another thing that bugged me was Forest Whitaker's acting. He was too overdramatic, almost to the point where it started reminding me of Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending, and that is something you DO NOT want to do. Luckily, he didn't have that much of a screen time. 

Flaws this time had an interesting spin to them. All of them were in the first half, and the movie not only got progressively better as it went along, it managed to deliver such an excellent final act that in the process, it mitigated its flaws a great deal in my eyes. They are still there, but they don't amount to much when I look at the movie as a whole and what it managed to deliver.

So, in conclusion, Rogue One was amazing, surprisingly so too since I was not expecting to like it this much. It gave me what I was hoping for, something that is hard to say for Blockbusters these days, and at the same time, gave me much more too. If you are a Star Wars fan, this is no doubt a must watch. Even if you are not a big fan of the franchise, this is still worth a watch. It's hard to say where this movie lies in my ranking of the franchise without re-watches, but for now, I'll say it is tied with The Force Awakens for the third spot, behind only A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.



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