Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Star Wars counting may confuse some people but it still makes more sense than Rambo counting or Microsoft Windows counting. We’ve had Episodes 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, and 7, with 8 and 9 on the way. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the first of the franchise films to break from the integer sequence and also the title convention – although in essence it’s somewhat akin to Episode 3.95. It also opens without a crawl of narrative text, which will disappoint some.
In the original film, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” a young Force-adept farmboy Luke Skywalker joins the Rebel Alliance and ultimately manages to bomb the Empire’s planet-killing Death Star through a womp rat-sized exhaust port. And we know that somebody had to have acquired the plans in order for that whole enterprise to succeed.
“Rogue One” is the backstory on the acquisition of those plans. Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), primary architect/engineer of the Death Star, She hasn’t seen him since she was a child and the Empire took him away to complete the project, when she herself is grabbed by Rebels who see her as a way to get to him.
It’s an interesting and quite tightly crafted writing exercise, fitting as it does into such a narrow narrative hole. For almost 40 years, people have speculated and joked about such an enormous piece of machinery having such a vulnerability and so the screenplay had to address the logic of it. But the film also needed to look like it could fit neatly into place, just before that 40 year old film – and so much of the style is consistent with “A New Hope,” including screen displays and schematics that would seem dated in any other context.
I’ve seen “Rogue One” twice at this point, once in 2D with a handful of press members and once in 3D with a theater full of appreciative fans. And aside from having another somewhat murky 3D experience, one of the most noteworthy differences in the two screenings was the audience response to the new droid sidekick K-2SO (voiced wonderfully by Alan Tudyk). I had already decided he (?) was my favorite new character and so it was rewarding to hear a large audience reacting positively to almost every line of dialog. It would be easy to dismiss K-2SO as a C-3PO substitute, but the humor is more dry and observational, reminiscent of live characters more than other droids. He’s more like this film’s Chewbacca, as co-pilot to Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), than C-3PO – with a side helping of Han Solo in his circuitry.
Of course there are also plenty of other moments for fans to enjoy references to the other films, including a few familiar faces. And there are some equally familiar action elements, with Stormtroopers who all seem to have failed marksmanship and battle scenes where every connection that needs to be made or switch that needs to be thrown is always across 50 feet of heavy crossfire.
Overall, “Rogue One” worked for me, filling a hole that perhaps didn’t really need to be filled but doing it well. Enough so that I won’t fret so much over future plot holes, I’ll just look forward to the filler.