REVIEW: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is Good, Not Great

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Finally, A Prequel To Be Proud Of.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away….George Lucas introduced the world to Star Wars and what was once just a movie became much more than that. Star Wars became a part of our culture and a worldwide phenomenon. When you think about it, you can’t really think of any other franchise that has come close to how impactful Star Wars has been to the movie going audience. Maybe Harry Potter but that franchise recently had its first prequel and it didn’t bring in the box office number that the company was anticipating.

Last year, after 30 plus years, a true sequel to Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi was released and without a doubt it was an event. The movie was heavily marketed and on opening day, the theaters were filled with people waiting on lines to see The Force Awakens. People anxiously waited in their seats until the opening line of “A long time ago” was seen again for the first time since Revenge Of The Sith and then we heard the booming orchestra playing the classic Star Wars theme and the theater erupted in applause and screams.

That was last year, this is now. Rogue One is not the event that The Force Awakes was. One thing that is different is that this is not a continuation of the Star Wars Saga, but a story told in between Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. And even though it fits in the Star Wars Universe as a bridge from the Prequels to the Original Trilogy, it is not an official Episode. There is no Star Wars theme or opening crawl in space. This is the first of many Star Wars spinoffs to come, which will include a Han Solo movie, A Boba Fett movie and more than likely stories based on Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda too.

The movie starts off where we are introduced to a young Jyn Erso (Beau Gadsdon) running to warn her father Gallen (Mads Mikkelsen) of an impending Imperial danger. Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) informs Gallen that he needs him back to complete the work that he has done on the Death Star for The Empire. Years later, Jyn (Felicity Jones) is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to help a band of Rebels, Rogue One, steal the plans for the Death Star. And yes, they do succeed because we have all seen Star Wars: A New Hope. How they did it, who survives and who doesn’t make it, well, you will just have to wait and see for yourself.  Or read what happens in the SPOILERS section.

So what is the verdict? I’m happy to say that Star Wars fans will not be disappointed. There is a ton of nostalgia that will make fans of A New Hope smile throughout the movie. It has the action that most Star Wars fans have been dying to see including a very impressive ground battle between the Rebels and the Empire as well as one of the most exciting space battles you will ever see in a Star Wars movie.

The movie is not perfect and there were some things that I had issues with but lets get to the good first.

It feels like Star Wars. This is now the movie that you watch before A New Hope, but I’ll get to the viewing order later. They did a wonderful job at times making it appear that this could have been filmed by George Lucas in the 70’s. From the blue milk to the the war room in Yavin IV, it just feels like it takes place right before A New Hope. Even some of the Star Destroyers at times looked like models. Gareth Edwards used the right blend of practical effects and CGI. It’s hard to tell which is which at times but everything looks great! 

Darth Vader is back! I didn’t get my hopes up to see too much of Vader in this movie because rumor was he was going to be used very sparingly. But he is actually in it more than I expected. Although 10 more minutes of him would have made me really happy. You have a costume very reminiscent of the one he wore in A New Hope. Not as shiny and perfect as the ones that we saw later in the series. You will notice that the helmet is bigger and you see the red lenses that he wore in A New Hope. James Earl Jones is back giving us the perfect Darth Vader voice. And Vader has a really incredible scene at one point that shows us why he is one of the greatest villains of all time. If I was Disney, I would drop the Han Solo spin off movie and start shooting a stand alone Darth Vader movie.

The digital work done to bring back characters from A New Hope was absolutely incredible! I wont give away any spoilers as to who we see from A New Hope but at one point in the movie you will get the chills because it is perfect! It’s not all perfect, and at times it seems like there is lip syncing problems, but it is quite an achievement. There is a point in the movie where your jaw will drop. All I can say is wait for it. You will know what I am talking about when it comes.

Best space battles that we have ever seen in a Star Wars film. I’d say this is even better than the attack on the second Death Star in Return Of The Jedi. The amount of X-Wings, TIE fighters, Star Destroyers and Rebel vessels on screen during this battle is something to behold. There is so much going on during the battle above the planet Scarif that you will have to see it multiple times to really appreciate it and catch everything.

The acting is very good! After seeing the trailers and TV spots, I was worried about some of the acting and dialogue, especially with Jyn Erso. I was not a fan of her saying, “This is a rebellion isn’t it? Well, I rebel.” I’m happy to say that scene was actually cut from the movie and she does a great job with her performance as Jyn Erso. The film would have had big problems if the main character was not likeable and she was. For the little amount of time that Forest Whitaker was in the movie, he did a fine job portraying Saw Gerrera. For the most part the Rogues were good especially Donnie Yen who portrayed Chirrut Îmwe.

K-2SO steals the movie! K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) is an Imperial droid that has been reprogrammed to serve the Rebel Alliance. Unlike C3PO, who for the most part was annoying (especially in The Prequels), K-2SO is legitimately funny and integral to the movie. He is sarcastic and says whatever is on his mind but he also is very aggressive when it comes to protecting the Rogues. Such a great new character!

The musical score. It’s not John Williams this time but Michael Giacchino and he does a fine job with the musical score. There are definitely some familiar tunes that we have heard before that is used sparingly but Giacchino also injects new life into the Star Wars Universe with his score. It just fits and I like this score better than the one that John Williams did for The Force Awakens.

OK, now for the bad.

Diego Luna as Cassian Endor. I just did not feel this guy at all. He was so soft spoken and too nice. At times he showed a dark side but he was not a strong lead character. He talked so softly that at times that I had difficulty understanding what he was saying. Hard to get behind a character that lacks passion. I hate to say it but they needed someone with a presence like Harrison Ford as Han Solo. A bit of a jerk but with a heart of gold. I felt that there were several scenes that Luna was in that just dragged due to his performance.

It got too Mission Impossible towards the end. In order to transmit the Death Star plans they had to go through a series of different challenges in order for them to be successful. But of course, it never went smoothly. It also felt kind of like the Clock Tower scene from Back To The Future, where Doc has to make the power cords connect to each other and Marty is having trouble starting up the Delorean.

Kung Fu in Star Wars didn’t feel right. I love Donnie Yen as an actor and a martial arts master, but to me it felt a bit out of place watching him perform kung fu at times. Also “I am one with The Force, The Force is one with me” was said too many times. He still was one of my favorite characters in the movie. Again, love the guy. If you haven’t seen IP Man (available on Netflix streaming), you need to see it.

No opening crawl. I missed it. Not that much, but still think they should have used it somehow.

Title cards of the planets. That’s never been done before in a Star Wars movie and it stuck out to me. Not horrible, but I think people would have been fine not knowing the name of each planet that they were visiting.

SPOILERS:

  • Did you see how great Princess Leia looked? That has to be the most impressive looking use of CGI recreating a person that I have ever seen. It was a combination of a real actress with a young Carrie Fisher’s face mapped to the actress’ own face. Absolutely incredible!
  • They did the same thing with Grand Moff Tarkin making him look exactly like Peter Cushing and although it looked less impressive, it wasn’t perfect. His voice was perfect but I felt like there was some lip syncing issues. Some scenes he looked fantastic but at other times you could tell it was digital. But it was so great to see Tarkin again and glad that he actually had a decent amount of screen time.
  • Vader delivering the line to Krennik, “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.” That is just classic Vader! Now I can forget that one of the last things he said in a movie was “Nooooooooo!”
  • Everyone died! Never been so happy to see that every member of Rogue One died in this movie. It gave weight to the film and made their actions seem so noble. They all sacrificed themselves for the cause and the greater good. Something that the Marvel movies should pay attention to.
  • Vader going on a rampage. That is one of the coolest scenes that we have ever seen Vader do and shows why Vader was the most feared man in the galaxy. It showed how powerful, merciless and brutal he could be. And it was scary! A very intense scene.
  • I felt they spoiled the AT-AT (or ACT-AT) scene in the trailers and TV spots. It would have been nice to have seen them emerge for the first time while watching the actual movie. Plus I was not a fan of their design. Didn’t like the brown belly section. Just leave them the way they were. Probably done to sell new toys.
  • The Death Troopers, who were Stormtroopers dressed in black, really did not do anything special. They looked cool but I wouldn’t say they were an elite branch of Stormtrooper. They were easily killed and didn’t display any special skills. Kind of a disappointment.

How do you view these movies now? I dont view the Star Wars Saga in numerical order because it ruins the surprise that Vader is Luke’s father. So I guess the best way to watch these now is….

  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  2. A New Hope
  3. The Empire Strikes Back
  4. The Phantom Menace
  5. Attack Of The Clones
  6. The Revenge Of The Sith
  7. The Return Of The Jedi
  8. The Force Awakens

But it still feels weird not to have A New Hope go first.

Rogue One is the first in a future line of Star Wars spin off movies and so far, it’s off to a very good start. As strong as this movie was at times, it wasn’t a real “Episode” and I didn’t have the same excitement I had with The Force Awakens. In fact, I liked The Force Awakens better. It could be because we were so invested in the story of Luke, Han and Leia and we were finally going to see their adventure continue in The Force Awakens. And we do know how Rogue One ends and what it leads to. Rogue One is a good Star Wars movie that could have been better with a little more Vader and maybe a little less Luna. In my book, we finally have a good Star Wars Prequel and that makes me happy.

I give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a 7.5/10.

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About the author

Joe Hogarty

Joe moved from New York to Florida back in 1997. He currently resides in St. Petersburg and visits the parks frequently. His first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when he was 8 years old back in 1974. Joe originally originally started as a photographer for WDWNT and is now the host of WDWNT: Nerd Alert, our movie reviewer and reports the news for WDWNT. You can contact Joe through email at [email protected]

10 Comments

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    • But he was kind of the lead male of the Rogue One team. Definitely not at the same level as Felicity Jones.

  • Very good review. As for your list of movie to watch, I’ll just stop at the first two original movies. Everything else is optional including the newest movie. You don’t have to watch it, but if it’s as good as you say, then I most certainly won’t regret it. I didn’t regret seeing The Force Awakens although I could live without seeing it.

    1.A New Hope
    2.The Empire Strikes Back

  • Well Done. I totally agree with numerous things that you mentioned.
    Personally I thought it was fun and well thought out. As a Star Wars geek I continually have to ask myself if, “I cant see the forest for the trees.” In other words, I try not to get to close or in depth, rather just enjoy it for what it is and what we long for…a new setting, a new world & a new story that blends flawlessly into our Star Wars world. For that I give it an A+…but on a ranking of my favorite Star Wars movies, its ranked number 4.
    Awesome movie and I loved it…go see it!!! Watch for endless Easter Eggs and chuckle!

    • My biggest problem is I am super critical. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy a movie because I am like, “why did they do that?” There were definitely things I would change if I had the chance. But overall it was a good Star Wars movie but it’s hard to put it up there in the Episodes level.

      I’d rank it at number 5.

      I really want to see it again so I can just relax and enjoy it and not be in review mode. Like you said, there are a ton of Easter Eggs. Dont think I will catch them all. Loved the two guys that they met on Jedha!

      And Leia was da bomb! Think I am going back mostly to see her again.

  • I agree with everything except your assessment of Ep VII being better than Rogue One. The lack of creativity in Ep. VII’s script is just cringe worthy. Rogue One blows it away.

    • You are not alone Pete. There are many people that favor Rouge One over The Force Awakens.

      I do think my love for Episode VII has to do with we hadn’t seen Luke, Leia and Han together for 30 plus years and it is a new beginning of a Star Wars story. I agree that Episode VII definitely borrowed a lot from A New Hope and if they do something like this with Episode VIII, it will really hurt the franchise. I think it was more of a not so subtle message, we know a lot of fans didnt like The Prequels, we are giving you what you want now. This was an introduction for Rey, Finn and Poe and I think it worked because now we care about those characters and want to see their stories move forward.

      I saw Rogue One two more times and really enjoyed more after multiple viewings. I am very curious as to what the movie would have been like without reshoots. We see a lot of differences in the trailers than what we actually saw on screen.

  • Actually the movie was really good. The acting was very good as well and it was great to finally know the story behind how the rebels got the death star plans.

    Great performances, a well written story and script. They did a really good job on this one. Honestly… if I had to rank them…. I’d be very tempted to rank this as my favorite Star Wars movie yet.

    • I saw this three times now and it does get better with more viewings. I am always tough with the first viewing and wish I had more time to see the movie more than once to get a final judgement, but I have to get the review out as quick as I can. But I still like The Force Awakens better. I saw TFA 7 times in theaters and I am done seeing Rogue One in theaters. Cant wait to see it again at home though!

      I loved the space battle so much. It was so well done. The land battle was good too but the space battle was so good that I wanted to be up there all of the time.

      I am one with the Force and the Force is one with me was said way too many times. I know it was his mantra but it got annoying after a while. But I loved Donnie Yen’s character and wish we could have seen more of him. I really wish he was a Jedi.

      Some people disagree with me over the musical score but I thought it was great. Giacchino was definitely using notes from the Original Trilogy but then would go into something else.

      Tarkin looked much better the second time but then the third time he didnt look so good. I think it depends on what screen you are seeing it on and how close you are sitting to the screen. I hear people ragging on Leia’s look but each time I got chills seeing her. Thought she was perfect.

      I would have gotten rid of the squid monster scene in Saw Gerrera’s lair. CGI was awful and it just wasn’t needed. I dont think the pilot was needed either. He didnt really add anything to the movie and could care less about him. And I still stand by what I said about Diego Luna. That guy has no passion whatsoever. Someone else should have been cast as Cassian.

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