Long ago, in a galaxy far far away…there was a trilogy. This trilogy predated its trilogy of prequels by 22 years. Sixteen years later, the first movie in a new trilogy of movies that takes place right after the events of the first trilogy, which is now thirty-eight years old in its origin, was released.
With the release of the new trilogy, a set of anthology movies were planned, the first of which is Rogue One. Rogue One is a prequel to the prequel to the prequel of the prequel. Yes, this is the most confusing franchise timeline of all time.
Annoying backstory out the way, I would like to add some personal perspective to this. No matter how much of a nerd I’m perceived to be, I would easily get my card pulled by announcing this: I’m really not into Star Wars. I like Star Wars from a cultural standpoint but I don’t really care too much for the mythology. Now my mom, she’s the nerd. She’s a trekkie and a huge Star Wars fan (Hi mom, if you’re reading this). Intergalactic movies aren’t my thing, but I do have a thing for war movies, specifically, World War II movies.
Rogue One is the best World War 2 movie in ages
I’m sure you don’t know what the hell I mean considering there’s no Winston Churchill, Benito Mussolini, General Patton, or Commander Rommel but stylistically and thematically this movie shares a lot of those same aspects. My favorite war movies follow the same standards. There’s typically a rag-tag bunch of unlikely heroes faced with insurmountable odds. Winning or losing the battle isn’t even the main draw of these movies, it’s the sacrifice exhibited.
This isn’t a spoiler but if you have even an inkling of knowledge about the Star Wars universe, you know how this story ends. Which leads me to the question I ask about most continuations of blockbuster franchises: Why does this story need to be told?
I felt this way about The Force Awakens. It was an…ok movie but did this story need to be told? And considering that we all know what happens before the original Star Wars movie, this film seems like blowing millions of dollars just for the heck of it.
In the weirdest way possible, this is precisely what makes Rogue One work. You know what happens so there’s no pressure to tell a new or interesting story. We know how it ends, so a few more creative liberties can be taken since it’s close-ended.
Although I knew I would only see these characters for two hours, it was still long enough to get me invested in the story. This is due to great casting of Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn.
[Sidenote: This cast is exactly what I mean by being able to have creative liberties. Because whoever suggested having Donnie Yen doing martial arts with a staff needs a raise]
At this very moment I decided that I’m no longer interested in reviewing this movie, I just want to tell you everything I love about it.
First, Rogue One is a war movie through and through. Star Wars movies don’t have this luxury, regardless of the second word in the title. They have to split time with Jedis, Republic and focus on the rebellion. Rogue One doesn’t completely eliminate the Jedi element but it’s the first time in the Stars Wars universe that a Jedi or at least an apprentice isn’t the main character. The Force is present, but only in a spiritual sense. Usually, stripping apart the best part of a universe makes it less interesting but this was the only way to make Rogue One work. It made this story about the rebels vs the evil Republic. You could close one eye and imagine a small battalion taking on Nazi troops if you’d like.
I’m a sucker for lightsaber fights but this war movie loses nothing with their absence. The action sequences in this movie are great. As I mentioned before, Donnie Yen’s inclusion is much appreciated but his buddy relationship with Jiang Yen added a nice wrinkle in the story.
Rogue One shines the brightest the last 30 minutes of the film though. This battle scene reminds me of Battle of Normandy scenes in World War 2 movies (Saving Private Ryan comes to mind). I felt what most people felt during those propaganda movies where the protagonist sacrifices himself. We only get to know Jyn and Cassian for 2 hours, but their heroism is felt throughout the Star Wars timeline.
So thanks to Rogue One, I’m willing to revisit the Star Wars series. My interest has been renewed and I’m willing to dive back in.
I won’t spoil too much of the movie. Well, what can be spoiled anyway. Check it out for yourself, even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan. It’s easily one of the best movies of the year.