Is there going to be an opening crawl? Will the score be different? Will someone say, “I have a bad feeling about this?” These questions raced through my head as I sat down to watch the first Star Wars anthology movie: Rogue One. Taking place just before A New Hope, Rogue One chronicles the rebellion’s efforts to seize the plans to the Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star. Without these plans, the rebellion has no hope; the super weapon can destroy planets at will.
Similar to last year’s Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, Rogue One stars an excellently acted female lead in Jyn Orso (Felicity Jones). Unfortunately, she is one of the few characters we get an inside look at in the movie. The juxtaposition between her innocence in the prologue and her imprisonment by the Empire shows the complicated life she’s led up to this point. We’re soon introduced to another character, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), whose wit charms the audience.
The rag-tag team that Jyn and Cassian put together is classic Star Wars — a sassy droid, K-2SO, a spiritual soldier, Chirrut Imwe, and his partner in crime Baze Malbus. The main fault of this film though comes down to its characterization. We never get to know these characters, and besides one quick monologue from Cassian, the exposition of who the characters are and what they do is all we get. This shortcoming turns into a problem.
What saved Rogue One from dullness was its utterly sublime CGI. The Death Star strikes were executed to perfection, but it was the battle scenes that truly stood out as Rogue One’s crowning jewel. The battle on the beach which included starfighters and new AT-All Terrain Armored Cargo Transport (ACTs) was exhilarating.
One of the most anticipated aspects of Rogue One was the presence of Darth Vader. Quite possibly the most notorious super-villain of all time, Vader’s entrance was quintessential Star Wars. The shadow looming over Orson Krennic — the director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Empire — while he enters the emperor’s chambers was terrifying, but it was Vader’s line as he force choked Krennic that brought Star Wars enthusiasts back to the Star Wars of old. “Don’t choke on your aspirations, director,” said Vader.
The final scene of Vader dispatching rebel foes with relish was pure Vader porn through and through, and even though it felt like a remake of the scene from A New Hope, it did not fail to deliver.
The best part about Rogue One for me is that it solves a decades-long problem with A New Hope: why would the Empire construct the Death Star with such a crippling weakness? Now it all makes sense. Galen Orso constructed it unwillingly, and purposefully created a weakness in the hopes that someone would seize the plans and destroy the Death Star.
Star Wars anthology movies should be all about adding distinctive layers on top of Lucas’s glorious base. Although it wasn’t six Bothan spies who stunned the Empire and saved the rebellion, the Star Wars galaxy is still spinning successfully.