A longer time ago, in that galaxy far, far away: Rogue One - A Star Wars Story Movie Review
The feeling that comes from sitting in a movie theatre in 2016 knowing you are about to watch a brand new Star Wars film is nothing short of magical. The lights dim, the retro backdrop of deep black space with spotted blue stars appears, and you are filled with nostalgia. The recent couple of years have seen the continuing of the Star Wars Anthology series. The Force Awakens began to tell the story that unfolds long after Return of the Jedi, and now Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stands at the forefront of the entire space opera, predating the events that lead to A New Hope. The film stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, and Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera.
What is beautiful about the recent revival of the Stars Wars Anthology is that it allows young viewers to be transported through time and experience these stories firsthand in the same way that their parents did in the 70s and 80s. The Force Awakens succeeded at doing this by capitalizing on the nostalgia of a timeless story while still being original. However, the second you realize that Rogue One was not going to roll with an opening crawl at the start of its feature, it became apparent that this prequel would not be of the same caliber.
Aesthetically, Rogue One stands out with pristine CGI that creates immaculate and intricate worlds akin to what Star Wars fans are already accustomed to. The battle on the tropical beaches of Scarif was one of the most imaginative and well produced aspects of the film. It was filled with hectic, choreographed battle sequences that contrasted beautifully against a lush and vibrant environment. While it did flash us back to the forest moon of Endor, it remained original in its execution and variety from what is already known about the moons and planets of this galaxy.
While it was easy and enjoyable to be distracted by the world building, it was impossible to ignore the lack of character development. In many cases, characters seem to develop out of convenience, notably Jyn Erso. As the daughter of an Imperial turncoat, Jyn spent most of her life hiding her identity and running away from the Resistance. At the beginning of the film, she outright despises the idea of a rebellion because of what it has cost her family. However, when the plot demanded a figurehead for the genesis of rebellious plots against the Empire, Jyn was suddenly on board with the plans, going as far as meeting with Resistance leaders and convincing them of the need for a rebellion. This development presented more as a means to drive the plot, and as a result, Jyn’s character often felt flat.
Overall, I would give the movie a B. It would have benefited from stronger writing, but the gorgeous scenery and splendor of outer space makes up for lackluster characters. Rogue One ultimately serves its purpose; it is a palatable prequel that will have to satisfy Star Wars fans until the next installment of the continuing anthology.