It’s hard not to feel bad for Gareth Edwards, director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The guy was asked to direct a stand-alone Star Wars film that felt new and fresh while simultaneously resonating with fans who watched Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. He also had to direct a film that would satisfy the moviegoers who grew up with Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The creative gaps he had to bridge with this project were near impossible to close, but yet he somehow managed to make it all work.
Is Rogue One a perfect movie? No. It certainly has its flaws. Most notably is the skimpy backstory for every major character, from Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), to Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen). The Star Wars franchise is enough of a cultural juggernaut that millions of people are already emotionally invested in this story (i.e., Who captured the Death Star plans from the Empire and how did they pull it off?), but the screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy was too lean. But I digress.
Here is what you need to know for Rogue One:
- Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), and Imperial scientist, is forced at gunpoint to leave his family and work on the Death Star. His wife is killed, but his daughter escapes to a hideaway and is saved by Saw Gerrera.
- The Rebellion has many factions, often working at odds with one another. Rebel Jyn Erso is captured early on in the movie but is rescued by Cassian and his repurposed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk).
- Cassian has been a part of the Rebellion since he was six years old and has had to make some tough (deadly) decisions working in the world of espionage.
- It is revealed in a smuggled hologram to Saw that Galen has secretly engineered a kill switch into the Death Star. If the Rebel Alliance can get the plans, then there is chance they can end the threat to the galaxy.
- The Rebellion plans to use Jyn as a way of working with her old guardian, Saw, who is seen as an extremist. Elements of the Rebellion do not plan on working with Galen once he is found. Instead, they plan to kill him.
- A series of events convinces Cassian that Galen truly was a good man trying to do his best in a horrible situation, and before long he, Jyn, and a motley crew go “rogue” to capture the plans to the Death Star. Initially reluctant bureaucrats within the Rebellion come to their aid when the crew of Rogue One put boots on the ground in enemy territory.
- The movie ends right where Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope picks up.
In short, if you want to see a good Star Wars movie that emphasizes the “war” aspect of the franchise, then you should see Rogue One. It has a scene with Darth Vader that is worth the price of admission alone, solid space battles, and plenty of The Force courtesy of Donnie Yen’s character. If you don’t overthink the movie, then you should have a good time in the theater with friends and family.
Editor’s Note: Feel free to head on over to The Conservative Book Club to check out the review I did for them.