Review: Rogue One is the Star Wars prequel you’re looking for

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It’s December, and in our brave new world that means it’s time for the cinematic Santa (aka Lucasfilm, aka Disney) to once again deliver an awesome, galactic-scale present to our little blue planet’s population. Not because we’ve been so nice, mind you – in fact we’ve been naughtier than usual – nevertheless the Force is strong in Ol’ Saint Nicholas and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is cooler than a classic abominable snowman (or Wampa, if you will.)

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryRogue One can best be described as a classic war film along the lines of The Dirty Dozen, The Big Red One or Inglourious Basterds, where a rag-tag group of soldiers face certain death, yet go forward heroically for the sake of the greater good. But in this case the big war is moved into the Star Wars universe that we know and love, and we’re introduced to incredible new characters and a well-written backstory of the events leading up to the very first Star Wars film.

I remained Star Wars celibate leading up to viewing this movie, and in turn I’ll attempt to remain as spoiler free as possible in the following review – just go see this amazing film, one of the best of the year in every way – and enjoy it as fresh as possible. You won’t be disappointed, and I suspect that George Lucas, who conceived his original movie as a space opera crossed with a WWII film, is going to have high praise for this effort.

Mads Mikkelsen (television’s Hannibal Lecter) plays Galen Erso, an Imperial scientist and the reluctant genius behind the Death Star. He’s walked away from the Empire and has gone into hiding with his wife and daughter – but just when he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in to complete the evil project.

Erso’s daughter, Jyn (Felicity Jones), goes into hiding with the help of the previously animated Star Wars character, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker); but she is eventually found by a Rebel agent, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who recruits her to help locate her father, who is rumored to know of a way to defeat the ultimate weapon that he has designed.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Along the way – as only the “rag-tag team of rebels” trope can go – Andor also enlists the help of a blind warrior, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen); a weapons expert, Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang); a “rogue” Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed); and a reprogramed Imperial security droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), that steals nearly every scene it is in.

If you are even remotely familiar with the Star Wars universe, then you know that the plans to the original Death Star were stolen and delivered to Princess Leia, which begins the very first film in 1977. Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebels came by those Death Star design plans, and the story by Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll and Gary Whitta is as great as the best wartime suspense-thrillers out there – but on an even more epic scale.

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryThe cinematography by Greig Fraser is beautiful. This is maybe the best looking Star Wars movie to date, and the film’s special effects are first rate. The ensemble cast is fantastic and award-worthy, with Felicity Jones, in particular, delivering one of the best performances in any Star Wars film.

If you are well-versed in the Star Wars universe, there are a multitude of Easter eggs in this movie – I guarantee you’ll be watching it several times. There are also many surprises to be had, some big and some small (again, I know nothing of the movie’s marketing prior to seeing the film – so these may or may not be surprises to you).

The music by Michael Giacchino is good, but not great in comparison with John Williams’ classic scores. I sorely missed the musical fanfare at the beginning of the movie and SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD – there is no screen-crawl synopsis at the beginning of the movie, also a disappointment – END SLIGHT SPOILER!

Gareth Edwards and his team of filmmakers have done a superb job here and Rogue One had me 100 percent for the entire film – until the very final moment with a poorly crafted and completely unnecessary CGI shot that put me back to about 95 percent satisfied. But, you know, it wouldn’t be a Star Wars film if fans didn’t have something to complain about.

Grade: 9.5/10

Photos © 2016 Lucasfilm Ltd.

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