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Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Eric W.'s Take)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Eric W.'s Take)
12.16.2016
8 10

Check out Chris Bumbray's review right HERE.

PLOT: A small group of insurgents is sent by the Rebel Alliance to find the plans to the Empire's recently-completed planet-destroying weapon, the Death Star before it becomes fully operational.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS, BUT VERY FEW PLOT DETAILS.

REVIEW: ROGUE ONE is a fairly good movie until it becomes a pretty damn great one. For a little more than half its running time, Gareth Edwards' prequel is an acceptably enjoyable, it not exactly thrilling, affair. It has characters we dig but don't love, a story that's engaging but predictable (and then some), and visuals that are attractive without being especially memorable. But at a certain point - I'm not sure when, exactly, as I have to see it again - it kicks into hyperdrive and commences blowing you away. All of those elements, the characters, the story, the visuals, are immediately heightened and packed with portent and excitement. The third act of ROGUE ONE is so great, so very "Star Wars," that it easily lifts the rest of the movie up with it, leaving you with an experience that is incredibly satisfying.

Rogue One Star Wars review Felicity Jones Diego Luna Gareth Edwards

It doesn't quite have the heart, you might say, of THE FORCE AWAKENS, if we're to compare it to the most recent STAR WARS flick. (I probably don't have to say that it's the best STAR WARS prequel ever, but I will anyway.) With Rey and Finn (and BB-8), J.J. Abrams effortlessly introduced two lovable characters into the STAR WARS universe, necessarily injecting new blood into a movie that was otherwise overwhelmingly familiar. ROGUE ONE doesn't have characters that are as winning as those, and its tone is more dour, more severe; if it's lacking anything, it's people you can't get enough of. But what it does have that FORCE AWAKENS doesn't, especially in that final act, is incredible tension and urgency. I really like THE FORCE AWAKENS, but a nailbiter it is not. Even most movie fans will know where ROGUE ONE eventually leads, it manages to cast such an impressively taut spell with its ticking clock scenario and adrenaline-fueled finale that I genuinely felt chills crawl up my spine as it concluded. That rarely happens with blockbusters nowadays

In an effort to be as spoiler free as possible, I won't explain the plot. As it is, it's fairly simple. Our protagonist, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is tasked with one of the most infamous missions of all Star Warsdom, that of stealing the plans for the Death Star so that the rebel fleet can ultimately attack and (spoiler alert) destroy it. Along for the ride are your prototypical ragtag group of rugged warriors and outcasts: There's Cassian (Diego Luna), a stern, militant member of the rebellion who does whatever it takes to get the job done, at the cost of others' lives and his own conscience; K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Cassian's droid co-pilot (he's basically a cranky C-3PO); Bodhi (Riz Ahmed), a defector from the Empire who has information crucial to the mission; Chirrut and Baze (Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, respectively), a couple of protectors of a temple that's being razed by imperial forces so they can build the Death Star. This motley gang will have to survive all sorts of threats and impediments to secure the information needed to bring down the villains, the main one being Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the glowering head of the Death Star project.

Rogue One Star Wars review Felicity Jones Diego Luna Gareth Edwards

When it's setting up the parallel stories of Jyn and Cassian, ROGUE ONE more or less adheres to the "men on a mission" formula, checking off many boxes by making our leads morally hazy though genuinely good people who find themselves stuck with one another whether they like it or not. But fans looking for any kind of sexually charged, snarky wordplay from the two protagonists will walk away disappointed. Though they often don't see eye to eye, Jyn and Cassian are a mostly fun-free pair. The performances are on point, but it can't be said that they are the most exciting duo. In terms of acting, Luna usually outshines Jones during their bevy of stone-faced confrontations. She is good, but the character is one-note, while Luna's Cassian is a little more intriguing. Thankfully, the ensemble element of ROGUE ONE is critical, and the supporting players do their part to lift up some of the dour intensity permeating from the two leads. Yen and Wen in particular have some brief moments of tangible chemistry that will have fans clamoring for a prequel to this prequel, one focusing solely on those two and their long, tumultuous friendship. K-2SO's wisecracks are sometimes a little forced, but he (it?) too eventually becomes a welcome presence, alleviating situations that usually need a little levity.

On the dark side of the force, Mendelsohn is game to infuse Krennic with just enough pouty bitterness that the villain is a bit more entertaining than he might have been. (On paper he's pretty much a standard Imperial jerk.) Not unlike Anakin before him or Kylo Ren after him, Krennic continues the STAR WARS tradition of vaguely insecure villains with major chips on their shoulder; he talks a big game, but you can tell he punches the wall when he's alone. Looming over Krennic are old favorites Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones, natch) and Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing); as ROGUE ONE is set so closely to A NEW HOPE, their presence is necessary, and thankfully we get just enough Vader without it feeling like piled on fan service. (He does have one standout moment that made my inner fanboy screech with delight.) The inclusion of Tarkin, however, is a slight mistake. I love Peter Cushing's portrayal of the regal baddie just as much as anyone else, and the film's attempt to bring the actor back to life via elaborate CGI is commendable, but the effect is never convincing. I found myself rather bummed out by the POLAR EXPRESS-ish look to Tarkin and often wished they kept him hidden in the shadows. As it is, Tarkin is in the film quite a bit, and he's usually a distraction. (That said, there's another character brought to life utilizing the same technology and the result is rather excellent; helps that it's a brief glimpse.)

Rogue One Star Wars review Felicity Jones Diego Luna Gareth Edwards

Cinematography, editing, production design, costumes, etc. are all top notch, and the visual effects (save for the Tarkin bit) are really beyond amazing. Make-up and creature effects are all superb, no surprise. As can be counted upon, there are loads of wondrous aliens filling the screen at almost every turn. A second viewing is demanded just to take everything in.

Though it does pepper in several fun moments and invigorating action sequences, ROGUE ONE is a sober film, the most "serious" in the series save for, I suppose, REVENGE OF THE SITH (with its thoroughly depressing second half). The light touch found in THE FORCE AWAKENS is replaced by an austere atmosphere; this is a war movie, after all, and the feeling that things are pretty bleak in this galaxy is quite real. I appreciated the intensity; it gives ROGUE ONE its own personality, ensuring it's not an entry off the assembly line. There may come a time when the STAR WARS movies Disney intends to churn out grow rote and soulless, but it has not happened here.

About that denouement, though. I can't stress enough how incredibly rousing the last act of this movie is. Impressively cutting between several different action sequences (think the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI), Edwards and his editors hammer home so many thrilling - and scary - moments that you barely have a chance to catch a breath. The last few minutes in particular are so insanely geek-friendly that you'll probably find yourself racing home to commence a STAR WARS marathon ASAP. Maybe I'm overselling it, but I don't think so. Though it ends on a bittersweet note, the film's wild finale is uplifting for the simplest of reasons: We've been given another STAR WARS movie that genuinely kicks ass.

Source: JoBlo.com

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