'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' movie review: For fans tired of the ‘formula’ in the franchise

Mihir Fadnavis

Dec 15, 2016 13:11:48 IST

3.5/5

Rogue One had a lot to live up to. No only did it have to contend with matching up to the cultural phenomenon of the original trilogy, but also with the acclaim of last year’s The Force Awakens which created whole new bunch of young Star Wars fans. Luckily Rogue One does something The Force Awakens was too scared to — it ventures into new territory and traverses into a bold and dark new direction while still delivering the massive scale and action adventure mood. It’s huge, it’s action packed and it’s solid entertainment.

To say that Rogue One is the best prequel to date is not really saying much considering the awful quality of Episodes 1 to 3. But it’s heartening to know that we finally have a really good prequel in place now. There’s no opening crawl this time — we’re straightaway plunged into the story, which begins in a surprisingly dark fashion. An evil weapons researcher named Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) hunts down an unknown man and his family somewhere on a remote planet. The man’s daughter survives and years later becomes Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) who gets embroiled in a mission to procure the plans for a mysterious weapon called the Death Star. That’s all you need to know about the plot because anything further will take away the little surprise element the film offers.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story movie review: For fans tired of the ‘formula’ in the franchise

From 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'

What really works is how frantic the pacing is. There’s hardly a moment to breathe as Jyn gets tossed around from one planet to another, repeatedly dodging death. It’s nice to see a Star Wars movie get really serious with war — some of the action set pieces are straight up brutal sequences akin to Saving Private Ryan though obviously not as gory. The visual effects are as gigantic as you expect them to be in a Star Wars movie, but the world that director Gareth Edwards has built feels practical, constructed from brick and mortar in contrast to the awful CGI stuff from the previous prequels. The final act of the film is just one massive attack sequence and is by far the most interesting third act in the franchise.

There’s a lot to be said about the painstaking detailing of the film that makes it match the aesthetics of the original trilogy and yet feels modern and fresh. Even though it seems like a fan film of sorts, right down to the opening title and music, it’s surprising to see a whole new part of the Star Wars universe, with people in the Rebel Alliance who are may actually be morally questionable. The one character whom you hope that he returns, does in fact make a solid impression in a brief cameo — in fact this brief presence dwarfs every one of the eight heroes in the film.

Speaking of which, the central characters are the only drawback in the movie. None of the eight characters who go on their heroic mission have any semblance of depth, which could anger not just Star Wars purists but fans of good cinema in general. The best films in the franchise are memorable because of the interesting characters, but the heroes of Rogue One are either dull or stereotypical. You’ll exit the theater without remembering any one of their names — which is a big difference from Finn, Rey and Poe from The Force Awakens. It’s kind of frustrating considering you get hugely known faces like Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker. Donnie Yen, who plays a blind martial artist is the only one who makes a lasting impression and you wish the film was only about him and Jyn on a mission. It makes you wonder how director Edwards, who was so good at character arcs in his first film Monsters failed to conjure that magic in both his subsequent films.

Regardless, there’s plenty to enjoy in Rogue One. It’s further proof that Disney’s acquisition of the franchise was the best thing that ever happened to it. It’s also ballsy of Disney and Lucasfilm to attempt a Star Wars movie that is so tonally different. If you’re tired of the ‘formula’ in the franchise, Rogue One is exactly the dose of change you need. The 3D continues to not add anything of value — so if you get a chance to see it in 2D go right ahead and may the force be with you.

Updated Date: Sep 19, 2017 22:18:56 IST