Star Wars: Rogue One film review

Posted on: 2016-12-19

Our rating:

It is a companion piece of the most respectful kind, answering questions we didn't even know we needed to ask.

I did not go into Rogue One with high expectations, in fact as someone who lives and breathes classic Star Wars, I felt as though I was cheapening myself by even going. But the crusty old sceptic that occupies 80% of my brain gave way to the 20% of pure Star Wars fangirl lust, and I found myself booked in to a 3D screening less than a week after the opening. Typical. Just to warn you, this review goes on for about 1000 words, and you really have to ask yourself: do you want to read 1000 words about Star Wars written by someone you don't even know? Of course you do, you nerd.



Since Disney opened the door to six more films on the original storyline and three extended universe additions, they have as yet made only two. The Force Awakens was a fine romp with enough throwbacks, Lucas-esque tropes, and slide transitions to make me feel relatively secure. It was no original trilogy, but it was no prequels trilogy either. It settled somewhere in the middle, and I had to concede that I did rather enjoy it. Elitism aside for a moment though, I’m not one of those Star Wars fans who considers the first three films to be master works of art, and the following three to be horrific money-making chum… I do like all six films, possibly due to the fact that I grew up at the same time as the prequels were made, and the fact that it is the lore and concept of Star Wars that so successfully drags me in and consumes me – not the individual films.



That being said, Rogue One touched on a few interesting topics, so rather than write my university required essay about Chaucer that is approaching its deadline, I’ll elaborate in the form of a self-indulgent think-piece. For those of you yet to see it, the film revolves around a motley crew of misfits who set out against the will of their elders to steal the plans for the Death Star. A plan we know worked due to the holotape lodged inside R2-D2 in the previous films. Directed by Gareth Edwards, a man with a proven track-record of respectful reboots with Godzilla in 2014, the film had a lot to live up to.

As with TFA, Rogue One took the idea of The Force and ran with it. Practically a whole marathon. It was good to see some martial arts and eastern-style mysticism bought in, considering the idea of The Force was indeed based upon such ideals, with martial arts films stalwart Donnie Yen being bought in as an example of the spiritual strength hinted at in previous films. There was an odd connection with Khyber Crystals which was never fully explained, but the fact that the Death Star ran on the same energy as the Jedi lightsabres was sobering and a delicate nod to the ‘two sides of the same coin’ argument surrounding war and peace.



For some reason a lot of the film involved Arnold Rimmer running about in white, generally failing to do his job and being force choked by Vader. This was in fact new baddie Orson Krennic, capably played by Ben Mendelsohn, and insterted as another example of a vicious narcissistic middle aged white dude acting on Lord V’s behalf. Although his bumbling posed no believable threat, his utterly vile disposition was starkly familiar in this current political climate, and his simpering after CGI Moff Tarkin did him no favours. There were a few familiar faces, alongside ol’ AI Moff, but I won’t disclose too much here as I feel their appearances are best received when they come as a surprise.

Perpetually stiff-jawed heroine Jyn Urso was stunningly uninteresting, with a backstory lifted from any adventure film ever and a politically ambiguous attitude that was less than convincing. She is paired up with absolute edgelord Cassian, who does his fair share of facial scrunching and apparently doesn’t blink, and a wise-cracking robot that surprisingly doesn’t miss the mark when it comes to trademark droid humour. This main crew offers little by way of inspiration or relevance, but it is the surrounding cast who provide the real depth. As previously mentioned, blind spiritual leader Cirrut Imwe (Yen) is a well written character that shows the strength and courage your everyday man can gain from The Force, dispelling any unwritten rule that said the Jedi and Sith were the only ones able to channel its energy successfully. The disillusioned pilot who turns rogue and is tortured by the side he turns to is an interestingly noble character, who retains his faith in the Rebellion even after sustaining head-wounds and potential mental scarring at the hands of one of its more extreme members.



Another point successfully made by the film through the use of the towering Saw Gerrera (played by Forest Whittaker) is that terrorists just make it bloody hard for both sides of the war. There are people planning, scheming, orchestrating, on both sides, and those who take it upon themselves to champion battle before all else are derailing what little chance anyone has of peace. Riots and bombings are shown as destructive and negative forces at work, even when acted out against the Empire, and Cassian receives a verbal beating for the deaths caused by his actions. This film deals with those the main films tactfully exclude. It brings to mind the conversation in Clerks where Randall asks what became of the contractors. Meaning of course the contractors used to build the Death Star, he bemoans the deaths of all those ‘hard-working family men’ with no Empirical ties who were working aboard the ship when it blew. While Rogue One doesn’t deal with contractors exactly, it does deal with the factions of the Rebel Alliance who don’t wear cloaks and have probably never even seen a lightsabre. It deals with spies, soldiers, pilots, the people who reside in the broken communities left behind by Imperial rule. It is a companion piece of the most respectful kind. It addresses unanswered questions we didn’t even know we needed the answers to, it allows a very Lucas-loyal take on the people behind the battles, and it does not allow itself to succumb to a pat ending. It is a strong standalone piece with more hidden references than you can shake Salacious Crumb at, introducing a diverse cast without being overly politically transparent. It also, as an unimportant side note of something that matters only to me, does not over-CGI its aliens, retaining some of that puppet-like look that was so hideously cast aside with Lucas’ Sy Snootles (shudder).



Emotionally taxing, but full of vibrant and familiar action scenes, Rogue One feels almost like an affectionate fan theory given screen time with a veritable hoard of well-cast acting talent. I would recommend that die-hard fans and first time viewers alike give it an open-minded shot, and remind me not to be so scathing in future.

Article by:

Miri Teixeira

Miri is an English literature student at the University of Bristol who enjoys folk-punk & math-rock music, trailing round art galleries, and playing video games. She is a keen follower of politics and will read any science fiction you throw her way. Having lived near Bath for many years she has developed a keen interest in the music and literature scenes and independent restaurants. Miri is the Assistant Editor of Email