Plot: Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Jyn Erso is a criminal whose father, Galen Erso is forced to work for the Empire as an imperial scientist. When word reaches the Rebel Alliance that a defected imperial pilot named Bohdi Rook has an important message from Galen about a weapon that the Empire is building, Jyn is rescued by the rebels and they convince her to help them find the pilot and find out what the Empire is up to.
Yeah, this movie is already months old, but I intentionally delayed posting this review hoping to add a paragraph about Carrie Fisher's passing made by my mom as a way to pay our respects, but it kept getting delayed and now the film is out on DVD and blue-ray, so I figured the oppertunity to do that is past. Anyway, after months of trying to be as close as possible about this movie and finally seeing it only the day after it came out, I can say Rogue One: A Star Wars Story met most of my expectations. It started off very slow and confusing during the first 45 minutes, but after that I had a nice time that most Star Wars fans enjoy as well.
I'll first talk about how much Star Wars lore from the expanded universe they made canon. There's a ton of stuff that they certainly make canon from characters from the Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels series, to small touches like people watching Twi'lek dancers on holograms, to even some of the ships during the final battle have designs based off of ships from the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games. There's also a scene with Darth Vader where he has his own Sith fortress on Mustafar that is designed like the Sith temples back in the times of Star Wars:The Old Republic which is one of my personal favorite scenes in the movie.
The tone for this movie is surprisingly darker too. This isn't a simple good vs evil story line like it usually is in the Star Wars films, they make it clear that the Rebel Alliance has its darker side too. There are moments where they will make mistakes or choose to murder for the sake standing up to the Empire. I think that's what I personally like about Cassian in particular. He appears to have been created to represent how much the Rebel Alliance has cold blood in their hands too.
It's also nice to see some ships and other vehicles from the original trilogy as well. I personally was looking forward to the AT-AT walkers (or AT-ACTs as these particular walkers are actually called,) and just their entrance alone is pretty cool to watch. My personal nitpick is that they aren't there for very long and these particular walkers aren't quite as powerful as the original AT-ATs, but it turns out that's because the AT-ACTs are actually cargo transports that are designed to be powerful against infantry but weak against air forces, so now I understand why. It's still a bummer for me personally because the walkers were one of the few things that I knew about the film going in and thus they were one of the things that I was looking forward to the most, but they're still pretty cool for what they have. Maybe we'll get more in episode 8. I certainly hope so.
The characters well not as immediately memorable as the new characters in The Force Awakens, are still enjoyable. Jyn was likable, Bodhi is charming in his own way, Baze and Chirrut were memorable, but by far the most memorable character is K -2SO. He has the most charm and wit in the movie by far whenever he is going over statistics or showing his dark humor against his human friends, and it was enjoyable. Director Krennic is one of those villains that to hate but at the same time kind of pity. He's a cruel heartless man, but at the same time it's a pity how he's discredited from his life's work. It's also a pleasant surprise to see other characters from the original trilogy. James Earl Jones reprises his voice acting role as Darth Vader, we have unused footage of the guys that played Gold leader and Rogue leader from A New Hope, but the most memorable appearances were Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. Apparently, they had different actors play the roles and then digitize them to look like Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher (rest in peace.) People have problems with how Princess Leia looks, but by far the best effects was for the digital effects for Grand Moff Tarkin. When he first appears in the movie we see only his reflection while he still has his back to the camera and so you think he's only going to talk while not being seen to mostly tease the audience, but then he turns around and he looks amazing. I don't know how they did it with both the digital effects and the voice acting, but he looks almost pitch perfect. Apart from a couple occasions where his mouth doesn't move just right, there are virtually no moments where I can tell that it's CGI. In fact, whenever I talk about this movie to someone, usually the first thing we talk about is how great the CGI for Tarkin is. It's so good that sometimes I'll hear some people say that they think it's Peter Cushing himself not knowing that he's been dead for 22 years.
The action has given us some of the most memorable moments in Star Wars including what some people consider to be the best scene with Darth Vader ever. Without going into too much detail, there's a scene where he cuts down a bunch of Rebel soldiers and his entrance alone adds so much weight and atmosphere to how dangerous the situation is against the rebels. It was also nice to see another space battle with Star Destroyers, Rebel Alliance cruisers and Y-wings actually bombing places which we've only seen in video games like Rouge Squadron and Battlefront II until now. It's a subtle moment, but it's a welcoming touch for people who know Star Wars outside of the movies. The fighting on the ground feels more like a great battle than the previous ground battles in Star Wars. I think someone on Facebook put it best that it felt like it was like Saving Private Ryan for Star Wars (minus the gore of course.)
If I had any problems with the movie which I brought up earlier, it would be the first 45 minutes. This movie doesn't start with the classic title crawl so we are left with no information about what is happening going in and because of this, the first scene was relatively strong but the rest of the first 45 minutes was mostly giving us a bunch of scenes that didn't really seems to connect with each other until you re-watch the film. I was a little more forgiving about this the first time I watched this movie, but my family really hated the first 45 minutes. They thought it was an implication that this movie was going to be really bad because they were so clueless of what was really happening. And while I'm not as hateful those first 45 minutes, I do have to admit that if you see this movie knowing nothing about it like we did, you're going to be really clueless with what is really going on. It isn't until Jyn finally meets Saw and thus finds out more about her father that the story becomes clear and the main characters are given a more direct goal. Now to be fair, it makes sense that the beginning of the film doesn't have the same intro as all the other films excluding Star Wars: the Clone Wars. This isn't an official episode of Star Wars and so some things have to be a little different. But if you watch this movie for the first time without having at least read the plot paragraph for this review, chances are you'll be as clueless as my family and I were. Though to be fair, our confusion also comes fromt he fact that we make sure we know nothing about any new Star Wars film before we finally see it and because of that, most of us thought this movie takes place shortly after the events of The Force Awakens. It wasn't until we were about 20 minutes in that we we're starting to figure out that that this takes place before A New Hope. Having said all of this however, the rest of the story is very strong. The third act in particular is arguably the strongest aspect of the movie by far with so many connections to A New Hope that's not even funny. I also really enjoyed how they explain some things that didn't add up in A New Hope. I won't spoil it for you but it was an appreciative addition to the story.
And that's my review for Rouge One: A Star Wars Story. The first 45 minutes are confusing if you don't know anything about the story before watching it like my family did, but apart from that, it's a great Star Wars film with great cameos, a welcoming collection of things from the expanded universe made canon, exciting action and likable characters that makes it fun for young fans and nostalgic for older fans. It's not as strong as The Force Awakens, but if you enjoy Star Wars and haven't seen this movie yet, definitely check it out.