Rogue One: A Star Wars story, Disney’s first foray into the larger expanded Star Wars Universe, was attacked with numerous whispers of disarray, bad scripting, rewrites and reshoots, and was rumored to be a train wreck waiting to happen.
Those were all false, at least when it comes to the final product.
In virtually every way that the Prequels were a failure, and in many ways where Episode VII: The Force Awakens never reached its full potential and greatness…Rogue One succeeds.
First…there is no opening crawl. That tells the viewers, from the very first instant, that this isn’t your father’s Star Wars. Disney clearly is making a clear distinction from the core Star Wars movies, and its expanded universe.
The story begins after the events of Episode III and just before the events of Episode IV. The Empire is at the peak of its power, and is now consolidating that power in the from of the galaxy’s greatest weapon: The Death Star.
Jyn Erso Jyn (Felecity Jones, Oscar-nominated for “The Theory of Everything”) heads up a Rebel team who sets out to steal the blueprints for the Death Star, in the hopes of halting the growing power of the Empire. She is chosen because her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is a “collaborator” with the Empire, and is critical in its construction. Her team includes various outcasts, from Rebel diehards to criminals, that are all brought together for a common cause.
Director Gareth Edwards does a magnificent job of blending not only characters and themes from the original movies, but also providing this movie its own character and depth. The battle scenes are what grabbed me the most; the scenes are more like something akin to Saving Private Ryan than the war scenes we have seen from Star Wars before. The scope, and danger, of the events is brought to you in full living color.
Are there political messages in the movie? Some Twitter groups have argued one way or another. I would say Star Wars is primarily about the fight for freedom, and not a particular political message, though if you want to read between the lines, I am sure there are plenty of philosophical threads you can grasp on to.
Ultimately, the verdict is pretty simple: this movie works. It works as a stand alone action movie, even if you have never watched a Star Wars film in your life. It works brilliant as another piece to the historical puzzle of the Star Wars Universe. If this is the quality of films that Disney is going to bring to fruition in the next few years, Star Wars fans are going to be elated for a long time to come.