The first of the new series of Star Wars spin-offs (or “anthology” films), this standalone installment sits between the last of George Lucas’s disappointing digital prequels Revenge of the Sith and his winningly physical original Star Wars. Fittingly, British director Gareth Edwards’s dark and moody space opera bridges the gap between the old-school 70s charm and ultra-modern 21st-century wizardry of this still evolving series. Despite using cutting-edge CGI to breathe uncanny artificial life into characters we never thought we’d see again, Rogue One feels like part of the same cinematic universe that gave us The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

I felt this movie, from a person that never watched the prequels, original, found this to be a spectacular film. Not knowing the plot going into the film, Rogue One brought all of those elements to explain the story line. Felicity Jones I support wholeheartedly due to her compassionate and overtly leader ship acting she brings to Rogue One.

“Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire”, ran the opening scrawl of Lucas’s original 1977 film. “During the battle, rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star”. From such slender source material, the Rogue One writers (four are credited) spin a surprisingly solid tale in which the heroes and villains of yore are mediated by murky shades of grey. Musically, an attention-grabbing opening stab (rather than John Williams’s traditional triumphant fanfare) leads us to the black Icelandic sands of Lah’mu, where Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic demands that Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) return to help the Empire create its “peacekeeping” super-weapon.

“You’re confusing peace with terror,” protests Erso, to which Krennic sneers: “Well, you have to start somewhere.” Evading capture, Erso’s young daughter Jyn (Beau Gadsdon) is raised by rogue rebel Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), at whose knee she learns harsh truths about fighting for a cause. “You can stand to see the imperial flag reign across the galaxy?” demands Saw when Jyn returns to his orbit years later, now an angry and isolated loner and played by Felicity Jones. Her answer? “It’s not a problem if you don’t look up…”

The rest of the movie is primarily concerned with Jones’s Jyn “looking up” – rekindling her rebel girl spirit to lead the resistance in search of those Death Star plans. Having cut his teeth on the character-led sci-fi of Monsters, Edwards allows Jyn ample time to find her feet. Like James Cameron’s Aliens, Rogue One is essentially a war movie built around the evolution of a punchy heroine, and Jones has that same blend of pain and chin-forward resolve that characterised Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. Even as the gung-ho battle scenes evoke iconic images of the chaos of Normandy and Vietnam, Edwards keeps us focused on the faces of his core cast – a dazzlingly diverse array who provide the film’s true heartbeat.

In my overall opinion, as a non-Star Wars fanatic, this stand alone movie was enough to convince me to be a fan. Although over the top for my style of movie viewing, Star Wars now has a place in my journalistic view. I never watched the older movies and will most likely go back and review them. 

By: Candy Lopez

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