Movie Review: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

Rogue One offers the first Star Wars movie for grown-ups that paints a fully realized war torn galaxy but its weighed down by retcon storytelling, producing an overly familiar and predictable narrative with cliched characters.

In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

Rogue One is the Star Wars spin off that promised to be something different. Fans would be happy to know that it’s the first grown up Star Wars movie.

Rogue One is dark, gritty and expansive. The world building here paints a picture of a war torn world, not just a dysfunctional family at the center of a battle between the light and dark side of the force. Diverse characters navigating different terrains, panoramic shots of different planets, and ships planet-hopping to different bases shows us that this is not just some squabble in one corner of the universe.

Luckily, all the visual effects were not wasted as they’re given cinematic treatment. In one scene a death star eclipses a moon, shooting one city and the revered culture in it to oblivion. The battle scenes are bigger in scale, as the movie combines aerial fight scenes with ground skirmishes. Apart from engaging space dogfights between X-Wings and TIE fighters thanks to shifting point of views, you have mass destruction in space (perhaps taking a cue from Marvel?).

Unfortunately no matter how hard Rogue One tries to establish itself as its own Star Wars story, it keeps on getting pulled back by retcon storytelling. The screenplay packs in as much nostalgia as possible while serving as a link to the rest of the sequels.

The plot is basically a two hour explanation of an architectural oversight that leads to A New Hope. Audiences who are not aware or have forgotten about the other installments due to a confusing timeline wouldn’t be able to relate.

While there are plenty of sights to enjoy, there aren’t any characters to invest in. The talented cast is underused. You get an underwritten protagonist, a generic villain, and POCs used as a plot device. All of the them are caught up in the cliched narrative about the rag tag of misfits saving the day, which includes the classic pull the lever moment.

It’s a waste of potential because the movie does try to be more than just a Star Wars blockbuster. The characters are willing to do what they think is right no matter what it takes, but the movie doesn’t develop any of them. It’s interesting to note that there is little difference between Orson Krennic (Imperial Director), Cassian Andor (rebel assassin), Gelan Erso (scientist) and Saw Gerrera (extremist) but its not explored.

Rogue One – A Star Wars Story has great visuals (one CGI character is up for debate) but lacks the depth to lend gravitas to what is essentially World War in space. Yes, it tells us of the sacrifices that need to be made and the little efforts that can collect into a powerful movement, but it doesn’t have compelling characters to make us feel them.

This sequel is clearly made for the fans, but not so accommodating for new audiences who would need to watch the other installments to fully appreciate it.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Attention fans who are fuming at the word retcon: I do understand that this is supposed to be the first paragraph to A New Hope. However, this movie could have been a compelling tragic tale about people who are caught in a war and do their best for a cause they believe in, instead we get movie tie-ins, creepy CGI, and additional information to a back story spread over two hours. The movie is still gonna earn billions. Chill.

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