<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen
Running time: 2 hours 13 minutes
As an ardent Star Trek fan and someone who didn’t really like the last ‘clone’ film The Force Awakens, I can say that here is, finally, a new Star Wars film that stands uniquely apart and is pretty exceptional to boot.
The Force Awakens was identical to George Lucas’s first three films but it still did well for obvious reasons. Rogue One won’t have as much fanfare as that one did so it needed to be stellar. As a spinoff/prequel it achieves a great deal: primarily being a wonderful stand-alone film that doesn’t need any exposition about the other films.
One line from the now legendary opening credit titles of Star Wars inspired this film: “Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon.” Who were these rebel spies and how did they steal the plans to the infamous Death Star? Rogue One brings these unsung heroes into the limelight.
What’s brilliant about Rogue One is that none of the central or subsidiary characters bar perhaps one or two side characters are part of the Star Wars Universe. They’re new and fresh and very good at what they do. Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso manages to better The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley. And thankfully we’re spared any irritating characters like Adam Driver’s cry baby Kylo Ren.
Watching Rogue One I was reminded of the new Star Trek films. It isn’t because I’m a fan of those highly successful movies. But it’s because I noticed how director Gareth Edwards has been inspired by the cinematic sophistication of the new Trek films that makes space, planets, asteroids and star ships look magnificent and almost art-like.
Cameos by Star Wars veteran characters happen now and then as well as some recreations of classic Star Wars scenes and lines, if you get the references that is. Rogue One has emotion, no overdose of CGI (more on that in a bit), terrific action and some really good performances.
The one and only jarring thing about Rogue One is the use of CGI to create a human face. I won’t mention whose it is, but it does stick out like a sore thumb at times. Still, the technology has improved immensely over the years.
Wouldn’t be a complete review without mentioning the special Imperial droid K2-SO (voiced by the funny Alan Tudyk) who wins hands down against BB-8 from Force Awakens. I’d say he’s more fun and far more interesting than C3-PO and R2-D2 put together!
Rogue One also features Darth Vader, who receives applause every time he’s on screen, but isn’t as menacing as he was in previous films. And Ben Mendelsohn as the evil Krennic and Donnie Yen as the blind Jedi Chirrut Imwe make fascinating characters too. In fact, they’re all good.
I’ve delibaretly not gotten into details in this review since the central premise has been established and the rest is all how it plays out. And it’s a fun ride with lots of surprises and heart-wrenching moments. I personally hope the next Star Wars film is more like Rogue One than The Force Awakens.