I’ve literally just gotten back from the cinema, having been to the 10:15 showing of the new Star Wars movie, and I have to say, that was one hell of a film right there!
Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance got those Death Star plans that we see Princess Leia racing across the galaxy with at the start of A New Hope, and it’s a story that has really been done to death back before the days of the story group. I am going to talk about some of the story of the movie, so please don’t read on if you’ve not yet seen it and want a surprise! Just know that the movie is really great!
We follow the daughter of Imperial weapons scientist Galen Erso, Jyn, as she helps the rebels make contact with the extremist Saw Gerrera, who has received a message from Galen telling them of a flaw in the Death Star’s design. Jyn hears the message, and determines they must recover the plans from the Imperial databanks on Scarif. Jyn brings this message to the Alliance, who initially refuse to assist, so Jyn leads a small band to the planet with the intention of getting them, herself. In a desperate final battle, the rebels succeed in beaming the plans to the Alliance fleet, and while Vader arrives to stop them, one blockade runner manages to escape…
The film is just amazing. This is the first of the new breed of Star Wars ‘anthology’ films, which will deal with stories outside of the central saga of the Skywalker family, and focuses on a cast that is pretty much entirely new to the lore. Having grown up with stories like the Jedi Academy trilogy, which tells of the scientist Bevel Lemelisk and his team of weapons experts who developed the Death Star, I must admit I was a bit hesitant to like this film, as it was stripping away so much of what I had come to think of as the Star Wars storyline. But, much like stories like Bloodline, I think this film succeeds in providing a more cohesive, and just plain better, story for this aspect of the lore.
(I’m going to be doing a blog about the now-Legends story of the Death Star plans in the coming days, so stay tuned for that!)
Jyn Erso is a fairly compelling character, though at times I thought the role was a bit of a cypher, and merely existed to tell the story around her. There is definitely something there, however, and either a second viewing or something like the novelization will perhaps change my opinion. The head of Rebel intelligence, Cassian Andor, was much more interesting, and I would definitely like to see more of his involvement in the nascent Rebellion. Hopefully this is something dealt with in the novel Catalyst, which I plan to read soon!
The more peripheral rebels we get in the group, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, were much more interesting to me, former guardians of the Jedi temple on Jedha that is being stripped of its kyber crystals, the fuel required for the Death Star superlaser. I have to say, the addition of kyber crystals, as well as mention of the Temple of the Whills, were a nice addition for fans of the lore of the original movie, but felt a bit like they were only included to make us fans of said lore “oooh” at the words. Similarly, how Chirrut initially says “May the Force of Others be with you”, which was the original greeting/blessing/whatever. But these are minor gripes.
The main thing here is that the new movies are restoring the spirituality of the Force to the mythos, rather than going with the scientific explanation given in the prequels, and I have to say that I absolutely love it. I actually expect Disney to come out with the message that episodes I-III aren’t actually canon at some point, as I find it very suspicious that they’re focusing all of their attentions on the period of the original trilogy and afterwards, and now working to unravel things like midichlorians. It’ll be interesting to see, anyway.
The locations of this movie are worth mentioning at this point. We get a handful of new planets, centring on the spiritual planet of Jedha, and the Scarif base at the end. I really love the locations of these movies, and I was not disappointed! Jedha (above) is a desert world with a Mos Eisley feeling to its main city. There is a religious centre kind of feel to the place, with huge broken statues out in the wastes, and what seem to be pilgrims wandering the streets. Of course, the place is under Imperial cordon, due to the kyber crystal thing, and is the base of Saw Gerrera and his attacks on the Imperials.
Scarif is a more tropical kinda place, which perhaps looks too much like the islands of the Indian Ocean, but what the hell. It’s here that the Imperial records are kept, and where the Rebels infiltrate to steal the Death Star plans. AT-AT walkers on the beach, ahoy!
Speaking of Imperials, our main villain is Orson Krennic, the man in charge of the development of the superlaser technology, it seems. An ambitious Imperial, I found him to be fairly interesting, particularly his place in the command structure under Grand Moff Tarkin. I have to say, I had no idea that the movie was going to resurrect Peter Cushing for this, and the CGI was actually pretty amazingly done. Unfortunately, things like this do tend to drag me out of the story, as every scene he was in made me focus on how they did that – was it CGI? Was it just a very good double? It’s going to be worth watching again to actually pay attention to the scenes this time.
We also get a bit of Vader in the movie, though again, I found myself focusing on the physical appearance of the character and not the story. The costume looked a bit strange to me, and whether Ben Mendelsohn is just very tall or not, he also seemed a bit short. But I’m being really pedantic here! I do find it interesting that we got a lot of resurrected characters on the Empire side, and yet Ian McDiarmid’s Emperor was left alone. Maybe it’s for the best that the Emperor remains a shadowy overlord? He did get quite a lot of exposure in the prequels…
Along with the return of Cushing and Vader, we get Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, reprised by Jimmy Smits and Genevieve O’Reilly respectively. While Mon Mothma has been in the trailers, I was excited to see Smits once again, as it lends a lot of nice continuity to the movies. I think there was a guy who was supposed to be General Dodonna, but can’t be sure of that… It was really nice to see more of Yavin IV, anyway, and I actually enjoyed seeing things that reminded me of A New Hope – though there are several shots of the rebel pilots from the Death Star trench run sequence repurposed for the attack on the Scarif shields, and that kinda jarred a little too much for me.
Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It had a very gritty feel to it, and in fact felt incredibly grown-up for a Star Wars movie. The galactic scope of the film was really well-done, and the characters were interesting enough that they could sustain a movie that we all know the ending for. Perhaps even more so than The Force Awakens, I found myself enjoying this movie from the outset, and really want to learn more about things like Jedha and the Church of the Force.