‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ — a true action movie Forget about the Force, the newest installment is here for the fight
How do you create a surprise ending to a story you already know? By not telling the audience when it will be over.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which hits theaters Friday will be a different experience for many fans of the franchise, who pride themselves on rigid ties to loose concepts of historical canon and feel entitled to a near out-of-body experience every time they utter the two words that George Lucas turned into an empire.
Rogue One is not that film. It’s a movie that’s cleaner, smarter and more mature than any of its predecessors and doesn’t waste time setting up long parables of myth to connect miniscule dots in the galaxy to one another. If you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie in your life, but have a rudimentary understanding of the Force, you will thoroughly enjoy the Gareth Edwards-directed film.
What you also get is the first glimpse into what Disney had in mind when the company announced that it plans to release a film from the franchise every year. The simple psychological difference between “the next Star Wars” and “this year’s Star Wars” will be enough to knock the luster off of the brand for many. But what you get with Rogue One is an action movie that probes the Z-axis of the Star Wars universe, without a care as to who it offends or lets down.
The acting, just like in The Force Awakens, is a drastic improvement on anything we’d seen from Episodes I through VI. In terms of storyline, it’s FAR easier to follow than any of the others. Viewers are not forced to tangentially learn new planet and system names that will eventually become important. They’re captioned on the screen, so not only can you identify them, you know how to spell them, too.
Clearer than any point made by its creators is its lack of concern for making this feel like some nod to the old. There are Easter eggs, yes. But they are far more deftly tucked in and highlighted, while not being the ham-handed efforts of old that were obviously there as catch phrases for people just looking for familiar faces. For a movie based on a single line of another film, it’s phenomenal.
Felicity Jones as Jyn Urso is almost the best cast character in the entire series to this point. Forest Whitaker manages to undertake the role of Saw Gerrera without making you feel ridiculous, and Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe will be coming to a Halloween costume near you, very soon. We need not even point out how absurdly on point Genevieve O’Reilly is as Mon Mothma.
But for a fan of a certain age, this is the installment that will test your loyalty the most. The brand is no longer for you. If you have children, you’ve probably done your best to instill your Skywalker or Sith values in them as best as you could. Yet, the characters we’re presented with here push the boundaries of the good/evil binary. While we’ve grown accustomed to loving the pageantry and pomp of a certain part of this universe, the more genuine exploration of the grit and grime proves to be far more intriguing than one might think. Palace grandeur need not apply.
Pound for pound, this is probably the best action movie of the series. Standing alone, it works best as a film that needs no others. We’re bereft of lightsaber battles, but if you need that at this point, you’ve got plenty to draw on. Rogue One is the movie for the part of your life when you decided what you liked is what was cool, not what everyone else told you it was. This isn’t the flick for nerds clinging to textbooks or jocks memorizing playbooks. It’s a tad more refined, but not quite slick. To use an obvious metaphor, it’s the kid who went on gap year and traveled the globe before coming back to the night-before-Thanksgiving function with way better stories than your freshman year at state college.
Which is the point when you realize this story is just plain more interesting than most of the others, anyway. So, if you’re expecting that land where the Force ruled all and you got at least one gargantuan display of it per movie, you won’t get it. You’ll see a legit suspenseful thriller that right when you let your guard down hits the hyperdrive and puts you right back to your childhood.