|Image credit: starwars.com|
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is gritty, action-packed, and surprisingly funny. It's probably the most unique Star Wars film to date. It's kind of like Star Wars fan fiction, but actually good.
At least these are some of my initial reactions. I just saw it tonight. I don't want to unleash any spoilers, at least not yet. I'll probably write a proper spoilery review later, but for now here are a few of my non-spoilery reactions like the ones I gave last year for The Force Awakens...
- Fear not, Star Wars fans: This is definitely a Star Wars movie, but it does feel a bit different. In the interests of remaining non-spoilery, I don't want to say too much about how it's different. I will say that some of the differences will be apparent in the first few minutes. But give it a chance. It will grow on you.
- There are some fun cameos of familiar characters (whether the actor is currently alive is irrelevant), but this movie isn't focused on any of those characters. Skywalker drama isn't driving the plot for once. It's widely known (and thus not a spoiler) that this is the story of how the Rebel Alliance got the battle plans for the first Death Star (Not the one those many bothans died for. That was the second Death Star in Jedi). This is why I say it's kind of like fan fiction: a throwaway line from the source text becomes the basis of an entire movie. But it's better than most fan fiction.
- I love the new characters. Jyn Urso (Felicity Jones) is a capable heroine who undergoes meaningful character development. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is the rebel who helps her on her journey. Forest Whitaker (as Saw Gerrera) brings his usual star power as Jyn's quasi-father figure. Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) make for a fearsome duo bringing firepower and blind Force-loving monk power respectively. Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is a defected Empire pilot (maybe he inspired Finn in Episode 7?). The Empire is represented by high level technology officer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) who, like some high level administrators here on Earth, just wants everyone to know what work he's taking credit for. There are many more, including cameos from a few A-list characters and several B- or C- list characters. The cast represents the kind of racial diversity that's already pissing off Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists; that racist bigots hate it just adds another layer of enjoyment for me.
- But of course the show stealer is the robot K-2SO, voiced in perfect robot deadpan by Alan Tudyk. He's responsible for roughly 92.3% of the humor of the film. There's a lot more humor in the movie than I was expecting. The non-K-2 humor comes from various sources; an unlikely wannabe comedian even makes a joke.
- More than any other Star Wars film, this one emphasizes the War part and with far less sanitation of the horrors involved (although the mere thought of those dead Ewoks in Jedi still chokes me up a bit ...). There's a lot of action, mostly in gritty, in-the-middle-of-it combat scenes. There is also, of course, at least one super cool, edge-of-your-seat space battle, so there's no need to revoke Rogue One's space opera credentials. Amidst all the action, there's not a lot of time for reflection, but the film gives something much closer than any other Star Wars film to an invitation to reflect on the moral complexities of war, probably the deepest philosophical issue to be found. The humor I mentioned earlier creates a nice balance between war-ravaged bleakness and popcorn movie fun.
- I saw this in IMAX. Totally worth it, especially for the aforementioned space battle.
- Stay tuned for a fuller, more spoilery review (like the one I did for The Force Awakens) sometime after I have a chance to do my part to support the Star Wars-based economy by seeing it a few more times!