Saturday 17 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) - Gareth Edwards

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) - Gareth Edwards

It doesn't even begin with the theme tune.

But then it's clear from the title alone that this isn't a proper Star Wars film, though neither is it a bold new direction. There are enough familiar elements, but there's an undeniable sparkle missing. The force is not so strong with this one.

After an intriguing opening with similarities to every other leading Star Wars character in the series, the film gets off to a choppy start. With so many new characters to introduce, the film jumps between multiple scenes as it attempts to set up its story threads but they're too quick and don't allow for enough characterisation. It takes a while for Rogue One to find its rhythm.

Once it does, we're treated to an exceptional looking film with pristine CGI effects and high-stakes action. There have always been parallels to Samurai culture in the films, but here they come to the fore in hand-to-hand combat - mainly from newcomer Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen). Him aside, there's little use of the magical Force with barely a lightsaber to be seen, leading to a pleasingly more grounded film that genuinely feels like a tense suicide mission, the odds stacked high against the Rebels.

Despite this, it's hard to invest in these characters. Partly, they're simply not given enough screen time to develop, yet they also lack the charm of those we know and love. Felicity Jones is a stoic and underused lead as Jyn Erso, an orphan whose father (Galen Erso - Mads Mikkelsen) built the infamous Death Star but double-crossed the Empire by installing a design flaw. Female lead aside, the remaining characters fail to escape their archetypes: from Diego Luna's rugged pilot Cassian Andor, to robot K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) whose comedy schtick feels out of place in this darker world.

Further, more than anything they all seem to get by on luck and coincidence. That may be part of the series' swashbuckling appeal, but it's starting to get tiresome, especially for a film aiming for a more realistic take on this universe.

What's also tiresome are the links to the other films. Whilst The Force Awakens fully embraced its parallels to the original trilogy as a soft-reboot of the series, here nods in the cinematography feel clichéd. And whilst the film segues straight into the events of A New Hope to cement its place in the canon, the inclusion of certain characters are wholly unnecessary. There's always one annoying CGI character and here it's a recreation of Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin, though he looks more like Dobby the House Elf. In the final scenes another certain someone turns up in laughable fashion...

At least the Rebels here feel like a proper underground Guerilla unit, a band of misfit soldiers risking their lives for the universe. The climactic battle at the end is brilliantly done, marrying gun battles and space fights, but the film as a whole - like its characters - is dispensable. The plot may give some interesting back story, but we all know how it ends anyway, leading to a finale of mixed emotions. But a Rebel Alliance who aren't simply 'the good guys' and do some actual proper rebelling? That's something to get behind.

Oh and all the 'boycott Rogue One' equality stuff going around? Bullshit.


Watch: Rogue One is out now.