Rogue One (Edwards, 2016) – Review for Rushes Magazine

Rogue One soars, but struggles to maintain height.

By Harry Faint

When Gareth Edwards, director of Monster (2010) and Godzilla (2014) was heralded as the first director to tackle the first of the stand-alone spin off Star Wars films, he quickly commented that Rogue One would have a tone similar to that of a war film. Yet, as Disney sadly demanded reshoots the film evolved into a hybridity of visions, both good and bad, meeting a similar fate to Suicide Squad (2016). The film soars up by the greatest Star Wars film – Empire Strikes Back (Kershner 1980), but struggles to maintain height.

The events of Rogue One take place just before Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), and follows the heroic plight to obtain the Empire’s plans of the upcoming Death Star Space Station, undertaken by a group of misfit rebels. For those who know anything Star Wars, we know that this mission was a success as the plans are pivotal to A New Hope, but the story of how does demand a level of curiosity. The lack of the iconic title crawl and the absence of John William’s triumphant score immediately signifies a departure from the familiar format loved by many. However, the film still maintains the aesthetic look and appeal of the original trilogy, something it benefits from greatly.

Felicity Jones, critically claimed for her role opposite Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything, now leads as the fierce Jyn Erso, daughter of the scientist behind the large weapon threat. Like Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series, Jones is limited by role of Jyn, which doesn’t demand more than teen angst and a rebellious attitude to match, and even if there was more to her character, she would have to fight for screen time with the rest of the ensemble cast. Following in the footsteps of C-3PO the newest droid K-2S0 (voiced by Alan Tudyk) provides intermittent comic relief throughout, however for a film that was expected to take a darker tone, these moments prove distracting.

The first half of the film the story unfolds sporadically moving from planet to space system, leading the film to feel convoluted and tedious to follow. Nevertheless, the pay off in the final 30 minutes is worth persevering for, as the action is consistent but not mindless, both emotional and personal and proving to be potentially one of the most enthralling sequences in the entire Star Wars cinematic franchise.

There are several moments where the subtle nod to events to come or events that have passed are slipped in, which make for a more rewarding watch for the more committed fan. Although there are occasional scenes that seems misplaced, that do nothing more than fan service, and create the feeling of a fan made film. An example of this would be the appearances of R2-D2 and C3PO. Fun? Yes, but it does nothing for the story.

Peter Cushing’s return from the grave is necessary for the story as Grand Moff Tarkin’s absence from the Empire in that time would have been difficult to work around. ILM (Industry Light and Magic) is to be commended for the life likeness of the portrayal through CGI. Yet, his role and CGI look of that of a video game is distracting. Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia, through the use of CGI also makes a similar appearance, which is made more poignant with her recent passing. This notion of CGI Resurrection is bound to cause issues in the future however Fisher’s appearance was not only permitted by the actor but enjoyed also.

Whilst Edwards has proven to create a more successful prequel than Lucas’ second CGI heavy trilogy, which is high concept but packs no punch, we can only wonder what darker weight the film would hold without the demand for reshoots by the studio.
Article Originally written for Rushes Film Magazine and can be found here.

 

 

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