Yesterday, the latest film in the mighty Star Wars franchise was released, entitled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Edwards:2016). Prior to its release, we knew next to nothing about it, other than it’s placement in the series between Episode III and Episode IV. From that, and some tasty trailer snippets, we gather it focuses on the rebels and the formation of the Death Star. But that was pretty much all we had.
**SPOILER FREE POST**
It turns out, the story revolves around Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is sent out on a mission by the rebels, to capture the plans for the Empire’s ‘planet killer’ – the Death Star. Though what she signed up for and what she ends up with, are not exactly the same thing.
Before I go on, it’s confession time. I toyed for a long time with including spoilers in this or not, because there are some things I wanted to talk about which, if I hadn’t seen the film, I wouldn’t want to know about. So I settled on including them in one section near the end, so most of this you can read without fear. That spoiler paragraph is highlighted in bold and if you don’t want spoilers, don’t read it. I’ll say that again: if you don’t want any spoilers, DON’T READ THE BIT IN BOLD. But, it would be cool if you came back to see what it says after you’ve watched the film. All I will say is, it involves discussion of some CGI.
But anyway, on with the show. I thought the story was told incredibly well. You cared about what happened, and it was made to be engaging and tense enough that, despite the fact we know from Episode IV the rebels successfully acquire the plans, it still kept the audience engrossed. You would think that already knowing the outcome would take away some of that tension, but as we didn’t know how they got the plans, that didn’t matter. And when the telling is as good as this is, you get caught up in the current happenings rather than the previous knowledge. A well-told story overall, I thought.
And it was interesting to see a story of the Star Wars universe that didn’t revolve around a Jedi, or someone equipped with the abilities of the Force. That added a somewhat more ‘ordinary person’ element to Jyn, and that tied in well with the war film feel that Rogue One has.
I really missed not having the classic Star Wars intro, with the theme tune and the rolling description that sets up the film. It was a bit strange to not have that, but it’s not an episode of Star Wars, it’s a sideline story. And it makes perfect sense without it.
One thing I was really quite impressed with was the inclusion of references and cameos. There was a smattering of them throughout, some that only the more dedicated fans of the Star Wars universe would pick up on, and some more classic ones too. Although I did miss an appearance from Wedge Antilles which I was waiting for.
Felicity Jones was good in her role as Jyn, however she didn’t shine like I thought she could have done, be that down to her or down to the script, I’m not sure. And Diego Luna was about the same. Riz Ahmed impressed with the growth of his pilot Bodhi, and it’s good to see him moving up in the world of cinema – he’s come a long way since Four Lions (Morris:2010). But I think my favourite performances were from Alan Tudyk as the wonderful new droid character K-2SO, who injected some perfect comedy into numerous scenes, making him a sure fan-favourite, and Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe. The latter being our closest link to the Jedi in Rogue One, and a fantastically genuine character.
Okay so, now we’re heading into spoiler territory. If you haven’t seen the film yet, and don’t want to know, DO NOT read this section. Or, if you don’t mind knowing, drink it up. But you have been warned.
The thing I wanted to bring up was CGI. More specifically, CGI people. The late great Peter Cushing was brought back to life by the magic of visual effects for Rogue One in his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. Another actor played him on set, and they enhanced his performance with Cushing-esque features in postproduction, to make it appear to be him. Genius, and well executed. However, not flawless by any means. It’s quite clear that he is a CGI human, akin to a video game character, so he stands out. And that’s because CGI isn’t quite yet capable of capturing the true movement of human skin when someone talks, or their weight as they move around. Despite this, Tarkin was 100 times better than that Leia cameo at the end – she needed to be in a wider shot, or should have had more time spent on her, as that was such an obvious difference in standard. Now, I just think that it was a few years too soon to include this tech in a film, as it won’t take long for our CG Mr Cushing to appear outdated and false, especially if we can pick out those flaws now. In a couple of years, maybe, but I wonder if it’s a bit ahead of its time in Rogue One. That being said, after reading up a little on the subject, I found that both Gold Leader and Red Leader were achieved the same way, and they had escaped my notice. So, what do I know?
But overall, I think Rogue One was exquisitely made, and was everything it should have been as a part of the universe without being an Episode story of its own. The characters fit in well, the story is mega, and the ending ties up neatly into the few moments before Episode IV begins. That was particularly satisfying to see.
In conclusion then, if there’s one film you make sure you see before the end of the year, it’s this one.