With the release of a new Star Wars film, the Emerald has enlisted four writers to offer their views on the film. The response from critics so far has been mixed, so we decided to offer a multi-take review for the first Star Wars side story, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Mathew Brock, associate arts and culture editor; Dana Alston, Emerald film critic; Franklin Lewis, arts and culture reporter; and Zach Price, arts and culture reporter, each have a different background with the Star Wars franchise, and they offer their respective opinions of the film below.
Mathew Brock’s Take — Star Wars Aficionado
Rogue One is one of the best Star Wars films to date and should be considered a pinnacle of the franchise alongside the original trilogy. It certainly blows away the three Lucas prequels and stands on its own better than The Force Awakens. It’s the prequel that we deserved as opposed to the hit or miss trilogy we received.
Best of all, it proves Disney’s plan to offer us with spin off films every other year is a good one and that a story set in the Star Wars universe, but not necessarily connected to the main story, can work well.
As someone who has delved deep into the Star Wars expanded universe, Rogue One is everything I could have wanted, showcasing aspects of the franchise we haven’t seen in the films before. It shows the darker, more militant and tragic side of the rebellion and does a good job framing the events of A New Hope.
The film’s depiction of The Force and the spiritual aspect behind it is presented in a new way through the feats of a blind force user (not a Jedi) named Chirrut Imwe. The reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO steals every scene it’s in and manages to redeem droids everywhere after they were relegated to little more than comic relief in the prequel trilogy.
The environments are finely detailed and the fights, both on land and in space, are put together excellently. The story does progress a little too fast at times and there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but each story arc is resolved fairly satisfactory in a way that’s reminiscent of a true war movie.
The cameos are on point too, with characters from the original trilogy fitting well into the story and staying true to both their original and Expanded Universe personas. Even characters from the animated series and recent novels appear subtly in the background.
Rogue One is a prequel done right and is a fantastic example of what is to come. The best Star Wars media have always been relegated to comics, books and games of the Expanded Universe, but now we have a set platform for those stories to unfold on the big screen.
Dana’s Take — Star Wars lover and Emerald film critic
Is there any chance Rogue One, the first in Disney’s planned series of Star Wars standalone films, won’t be successful? The series’ financial success seems inevitable. Whether its quality will hold up is another story.
Rogue One is at least earnest, if limited, in its attempts to change the formula, delivering the whimsy and humor of a typical Star Wars film while still introducing darker, more violent concepts into the franchise. Unfortunately, even at its best moments, it’s difficult to shake a general lack of authenticity emanating from the screen.
This movie exists, first and foremost, to make money. If only that was easier to ignore.
The story, which acts as a narrative bridge between the prequel and original trilogies, follows a ragtag group of Rebel soldiers on their quest to capture the plans to the infamous Death Star. The cast of characters is diverse, likable and thoroughly underused. Most of them only get one or two chances at the spotlight before the film ends. This group of fine, capable actors deserve better than what they are given.
Meanwhile, director Gareth Edwards appears to have been hired simply to produce a sellable product. His style is so indistinct here that the film fails to create a lasting visual impression, despite some crisp imagery from cinematographer Greig Fraser. Screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy don’t offer much help. Expository dialogue is ever-present and often clumsy, and several story beats play directly against logic.
But the film’s biggest narrative mishap has more to do with its conception. Rogue One‘s story is forever beholden to the stories that will follow, and therefore cannot stand alone. At its worst, it feels more like a small cog in a great machine than a self-contained spin-off, keen to satisfy first, and challenge its audience later.
Luckily, Rogue One is remarkably dark for a Star Wars film, and its greatest strength is its ability to make dire subjects (the cost of war chief among them) fit into the franchise. Death and destruction are very prudent elements here, and several battle sequences pack some additional punch as a result. Despite how inconsequential the film really is, watching people die in the Star Wars universe is still jarring.
Unfortunately, that commitment to darkness is the only truly notable element over the film’s two-and-a-half hours. The rest has been thoroughly explored before, in other blockbusters. Time will tell if that lack of variety sinks the Star Wars ship. For now, it’s easier to just pay for a ticket to have fun at the movies.
Franklin’s Take — Casual Star Wars Fan
Rogue One’s brilliance is how the film offers something for everyone. It incorporates aspects of a classic summer action flick: a clear-cut good vs evil struggle, big explosions and plenty of CGI; however, complex characters and a diverse cast help Rouge One distinguish itself from a typical action movie.
The writers favor action and intrigue over reflective or romantic moments, which help move the plot along and engulf the audience in a way previous instalments of Star Wars can no longer do. This emphasis is somewhat due to the 21st century technology available to the production team as they can enhance and refine the special effects in the older episodes. But even compared to last year’s, The Force Awakens, Rogue One relies more on raw battle scenes and the internal power struggles within both sides. For this, hats off go to the writers for recognizing what audiences wanted out of a fresh take on Star Wars.
Felicity Jones plays an inspiring and confident heroine with decent support from sidekick Diego Luna, but K-2SO really ties the Rebel main character group together as a wittier, more useful version of C3PO (gold-colored droid featured prominently in the original episodes, and briefly seen in The Force Awakens). Voiced by Alan Tudyk, K-2SO is a reprogramed Imperial droid whose resourcefulness and dry sense of humor come in handy time and time again, both for the sake of the characters and the integrity of the movie.
What the movie nails particularly well is the toxic political structure of the Imperials. Known for his villainous roles, Ben Mendelsohn fails to disappoint as he mixes the perfect amount of swagger, arrogance and ruthlessness into his role as commander of the Death Star project. Sprinkle in solid performances by other outlaws and Imperials, and of course, the reappearance of Darth Vader, and it adds up to an excellent force of evil entities.
Rogue One is what a modern Star Wars movie should look like.
Zach Price’s take — Proud owner of a Jedi robe
Not sequentially connected to the plot of last year’s JJ Abrams film, Rogue One takes place between Star Wars Episodes III and IV. Rogue One follows the story of Gin Erso (Felicity Jones), who is the daughter of the man tasked with engineering the infamous planet destroyer, the Death Star.
After teaming up with Rebel Alliance Captain Cassian Andor, she sets out to find rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) in hopes of finding information of her father’s whereabouts. Luckily, Forest Whitaker’s appearance is short lived. After relaying a message from a defected Imperial pilot, Gerrera is killed after the Death Star blasts a nearby city. Whitaker’s casting seems like the studio reached for a big name that just doesn’t land.
Adding a blind warrior and a heavily armed mercenary to their team, Erso and Andor head to the rebel headquarters to relay a message from her father. After learning that her father put a flaw in the Death Star’s plans, Gin tries to convince the Rebellion leaders that they must send its army to retrieve the plans from an Imperial base. She delivers a somewhat awkward speech to the council trying to inspire them to act on this newfound information.
Felicity Jones’ performance is only marred by her character’s shockingly quick transformation from someone who has no interest in the Rebellion to a leader of a small fleet of troops.
The final sequence makes the whole movie. With X-wing fighters flying past your nose and the Death Star beams shooting from the ceiling, the final battle scene made paying extra for the 3-D worth it. The ending will have you itching to watch Episode IV as soon as you get home.
Overall, Rogue One, much like The Force Awakens, played it safe. There were no mind- shattering reveals or unexpected plot twists, but the film told a story that everyone knew the ending to as best as it could. Good acting, excellent visuals and intense battle scenes made this movie entertaining for casual and die-hard fans alike.
Watch the trailer for Rogue One below: