As a lifelong Star Wars fan, I’ll be one of the first to admit that I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to see Rogue One. I was originally more excited about the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer, but when that dropped on the internet, I held on to the fact that Alan Tudyk was voicing the droid, K-2SO. It’s nothing personal, but the knowledge that Disney was going to make a Star Wars film every year, but a “main” title only every other year, I was waiting to get back into the exploits of the Skywalker clan, especially when I only got a silent 30 seconds of Luke Skywalker at the end of the last film.
So, with all that said, I was delightfully surprised to find Rogue One an excellent entry into the Star Wars mythos. In addition to strong main characters with more than just memorable personalities, as well as a cleverly crafted plot that both sets up A New Hope beautifully as well as resolves a notorious long-standing question fans have had about that film, we also get a film that has a strong emotional core that does a good job of showing the high stakes that make up the conflict between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. It’s well executed, though far from flawless, and manages to be both fun and strong on substance.
With the exception of Empire Strikes Back, and possibly A New Hope, I would say this is the strongest film in the franchise so far. The heroes are realistic, with strong motivations, and the villains are unsettling in how evil they are portrayed. This Empire, personified in the character of Orson Krennic, is a far cry from the one that seems to merely go through the motions of doing villainous things, and instead we see a collective entity that derives a psychotic pleasure from crushing those who would oppose it under its heel in the most painful of ways possible. It makes for great conflict, and gives viewers a reason to root for the ensemble of ragtag heroes, led by Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, and K-2SO.
There are some flaws, though I would say they’re relatively minor. A few of the cameos are good and add to the feel of the universe, though some just feel tacked on for sake of doing so. The CG effects done for certain legacy characters were of varying quality, and occasionally took me out of the story–I think I would have preferred they re-cast the parts. And finally, there were one or two physical challenge-style obstacles that had no practical place in the narrative, and just make people wonder what drunk designer could have possibly kept his job after placing said contraption where it ended up.
In many ways, I would liken Rogue One to Star Wars the same way I would liken Deep Space Nine to Star Trek: it’s probably the darkest, yet ultimately the most life-affirming of the franchise so far. There’s an undeniable sense of the importance of giving your all to an important cause, no matter the personal cost. It is without a doubt, perhaps not the best of the Star Wars films, but one of–if not the most–meaningful of them, particularly given the cultural and social climate we find ourselves these days. Definitely worth a view for any fan of the franchise, and anyone who simply likes good storytelling.