While I continue to be addicted to the Destiny 2 grind, I put on Rogue One a Star Wars story in the background to see how well it holds up outside of the hype bubble of its release. No, it did not generate nearly as much excitement as A Force Awakens did as the first new installment in the ongoing saga under the new Disney-led regime. But it was unique in it’s own right, serving as the first major motion picture to tell another story in the universe outside of the Skywalker saga.
Set in the days leading up to A New Hope, Rogue One tells the story of the band of misfits who rallied together to steal the Death Star plans. Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, a woman who has spent years trying to stay out of the growing conflict between the Empire and the Rebels. She is brought before the Rebel leadership because of her connection to Galen Erso, her father played by Mads Mikkelsen, and the chief architect of the Empire’s mysterious new super weapon. When she learns that her father has hidden a flaw in the weapon that can be exploited to destroy it, she tries to convince the Rebels to support a mission to retrieve the plans. She comes up short but convinces a small collection of unlikely allies to join her.
Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is the spy who has done dark deeds in the name of the Alliance. His unlikely partner is a reprogrammed imperial battle droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk). Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus (Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, respectively) are a pair of Guardians of the Whills, allies of the old Jedi Order. Bodhi Rook, a defecting Imperial pilot played by Riz Ahmed, rounds out the core team. Everyone has their role to play in the mission and each character gets a few moments to shine throughout the film, with K-2SO’s dry sarcasm and disdain for having to be allied with the Rebels often stealing the show.
There is definitely a lot of fan service to go around in Rogue One with numerous nods to the bigger franchise scattered throughout. Some of them work incredibly well (like a couple of well-placed cameos in a final space battle), while others feel unnecessary and just leave me confused (like how an early cameo gets from their place in this film to where we see them in A New Hope seemingly days later). But this is undeniably a film made by fans of the epic space opera.
What impressed me most when I watched the film originally, and continues today, is that this movie manages to improve A New Hope, not distract from it. This film shows up a scattered group of Rebels and what led them to actually becoming a Rebel ALLIANCE. It manages to explain away the long-mocked, magic exhaust port weakness by telling us that it was by design. As a long-time fan of the games of the same name, I love that we get a subtle origin of the Rogue Squadron. Most importantly, we get to see the tangible cost of the spies who give their lives to transmit the Death Star plans. It’s not a story we needed (we survived nearly 40 years without it just fine, after all), but it’s a story that they decided to tell and it didn’t lessen what came before, like other prequels in cinema history have.
Great performances, action, and a clear love for the franchise all help establish this first Star Wars stand-alone story as an excellent pilot to this direction for the series. I only hope that the future stories add to the franchise as this one has, and don’t detract from the vast Star Wars universe.
If nothing else, it’s a great science fiction movie to throw on in the background while I shoot up tons of bad guys in Destiny.