"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" Review: Keep Em' Coming!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not a film about if, but how. How did the Rebel Alliance get the plans to the Death Star? Well, it wasn’t easy, and that’s where this off shoot from Star Wars episodes fits in.

Imagine what it was like in 1945 as the Atom Bomb was about to be tested. That’s where things stand in Rogue One. The Death Star is up and running, but the planet killer has yet to be used. With time running short, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is recruited by the Rebellion early in the film as an access key. Her bloodline and past makes her important to the group’s plan to see the Death Star destroyed. 

The movie is more a war film than anything like its predecessors. Most of the film is tactical in nature. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a recruiter and soldier in the Rebel Army, extracts Jyn out of Imperial transport vehicle with the help of his reprogrammed K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Jyn is offered the opportunity to help the Rebellion, or continue as she was in the hands of The Empire.

Time is of the essence on both sides as Orson Krennic (the always stellar Ben Mendelsohn) is going to show The Empire that the Death Star, the project he’s headed up, is in full working order. As plans on both sides move forward we’re introduced to Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baz Malbus (Wen Jiang), two guardians of the temple on planet Jedha, which is being mined by The Empire as fuel. The Empire is on high alert as an extremist in the Rebellion named Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) keeps them on their toes, along with the rest of the Rebel Army.

Suspense and tension is high in this film, while keeping some humor sprinkled in to break things up. With everyone on edge as the clock is running out, it makes for good pacing. Director Gareth Edwards captures the ground and air fights in such a way that we feel entrenched with soldiers, while seeing the scale of the enemy.

A lot should be said about the diversity of the cast. Felicity Jones brings a nice balance of strength to her character, while carrying the emotional weight of her past in her eyes. The combination of Jones, Luna, Yen and Jiang throughout the film make for a great rag tag family and diversity that isn’t too often seen in a big budget film like this because screen time is spread well amongst the group.

In case you were wondering, Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is in the film just the right way and for the right amount of time! His presence is known and when it’s felt it’s felt, but it is sure to please any Vader fan. Rest assured, they got that part right!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a nice entry in setting up the epic saga to follow. It instills confidence for more stand-alone movies in the coming years as well. Since my kids won’t know the difference, when they reach an age that Darth Vader doesn’t scare them, we’ll start with Rogue One and work our way up to episode 8 (by then)! One through three will always be extra credit.

Rating: B+

 

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.