Review – Rogue One

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the best Star Wars film ever made.

There, I said it. Rogue One is better than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. It’s better than The Force Awakens. It should go without saying that it’s better than any of the other prequels.

Yes, the original trilogy was groundbreaking and will always hold a special place in the hearts of those of us who grew up with the films. The nostalgia factor may never let another Star Wars film truly take the throne in our hearts that’s reserved for whichever of the three is your personal favorite, this is true. But lay them all out side by side, on equal ground, and Rogue One comes out on top.

Because I hate spoilers, I try to avoid them in my reviews. Rogue One would still be amazing even with surprises spoiled, but fear not, I won’t be giving anything away that the opening crawl of A New Hope hasn’t already. If I may, for a moment, refresh your memory:

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….

Rogue One is literally the story behind that victory and the stolen plans in questions. The untold story of heroes who put into motion the ultimate defeat of the Empire.

From the prequel trilogy to the new saga begun with The Force Awakens, films have failed to completely recapture that “Star Wars feel.” The Force Awakens looks like the classics in just about every respect, but it still has a modern sheen to it, taking place 30 years after the originals both in real and movie time. The prequels have their own distinct look about them – chaotic and colorful. Things often seem more inspired by Star Wars than actually based in the same reality. Great care was taken to not only make Rogue One look like A New Hope design-wise, but it was filmed with a fascinating hybrid camera to painstakingly give it the correct look that makes it feel like it truly belongs right beside the classics, and it pays off. While The Force Awakens feels like it belongs to the same universe as the originals, Rogue One could almost be mistaken for one were it not for a few decisions like eliminating the distinctive opening crawl.

Designed as a stand alone film (part of the reason for the crawl and other decisions), it absolutely works. You can have never seen a Star Wars film in your life, go into this movie completely blind to the mythos, and still enjoy it with no confusion. Sure there are some nods to characters and events in other films, but nothing that stands out in a way that you’d even realize you’re missing something. No jarring audience pandering here – the cameos are fluid, appropriate, and entertaining.

The prequels tell a backstory that everyone was interested in but ultimately most realized wasn’t really worth finding out about. I would say the complete opposite about Rogue One. This is the essential Star Wars movie you didn’t know you needed to see. Even though it stands on its own, it slickly segues into the events of A New Hope (a great excuse to get newbies on board), and actually makes those original movies better. Some beautiful ret-conning makes some of the more plot-holey aspects of A New Hope make perfect sense, and the story gives a greater emotional heft to the rebels’ fight against the empire. The Force is gently nudged back into its rightful place as a mystical phenomenon that is not explained by pseudo-scientific symbiotic microorganisms and, and we’re introduced to a whole host of characters we will laugh with and root for any day. And what about all these new characters? How do they explain why they’re not in later films? Don’t worry, it all makes sense.

One of the standouts is Alan Tudyk‘s new droid character, K-2SO. Just imagine that C-3P0 suddenly developed a very dark snarky sense of humor. And was also not completely ineffective in a battle. While in a lot of ways this is a grimy war film with not a lot of happy going on, K-2SO interjects just the right amount and type of humor to keep things balanced along the way.

I could sing the praises of all the talented actors here, and rightly so. The cast is all excellent, melding together effortlessly and becoming instantly some of your favorites in Star Wars lore. There are some surprises here too that I won’t spoil, but suffice to say, the days are not long before it really doesn’t matter how old, or non-living an actor is. That day is not quite here, but we’re close.

Rogue One truly puts the “war” into Star Wars, playing like something out of Saving Private Ryan almost as much as a space opera. It works wonderfully for the story, injecting new life into the franchise in a way that even The Force Awakens couldn’t quite do. You may have seen images floating around the internet of people photoshopping Star Wars vehicles etc. into historic moments (including the battle of Normandy). This, in many ways, is that come alive.

Michael Giacchino‘s score is gorgeous, melding the classic John William themes with fast pace epic notes resounding across the galaxy in a way that feels just right.

Pretty much everything just works. All those fears about reshoots appear to be unfounded – they really were just trying to get it perfect (and I couldn’t find any evidence that they were to somehow interject anti-Trump propaganda…)

The story the original trilogy was telling now feels complete in a way it never did before, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Mrs. Hamster and Brother Hamster hope to see this film as soon as possible

My rating: Five out of five hats

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Trailer:

Rogue One storms over 4,000 theaters, including IMAX 3D, December 16

4 thoughts on “Review – Rogue One

  1. I was excited before……. now I’m pumped to see this on Sat. Will have to have wifey watch New Hope before then (I just learned this week that she has NEVER seen any SW movie before)

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    1. prior knowledge of Star Wars is not necessary at all for this one, and the way it ends will easily have her wanting to watch ANH as soon as possible if you don’t have time to cram it in beforehand 🙂

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