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Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

J.R. Hensley, Photo Editor

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When it comes to Star Wars, Christmas time is special for me. It was the first time my mother came across “Return of the Jedi” while channel surfing and said I should give it a watch because it might be something I would like. Little did she know how much it would come to consume my life.

After that time most of the films were re-released and then finally released in the summer time. However, for me watching the saga during the Christmas season has always been my go to holiday tradition, which is why when Disney released “The Force Awakens” in Dec. 2015 they tapped into a very specific vein of nostalgia for myself. Because of Episode VII’s success at this time of year, the Mouse House has decided to release all of the forthcoming Star Wars films during the winter, when previously they had planned for a summer and winter release schedule. By the way, if it was not apparent the Star Wars cash cow is going to deliver a bottle of milk every year until that teat is sucked dry.

This past week “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” took flight in theaters and got my 11-year-old-self dancing in his theater seat. Initially I had planned to see it on the actual day of release; however, my friend talked me into a late night Thursday showing at the lone IMAX 3D screen in town.

While I still find the idea of 3D a way to charge more for tickets, I am always happy to oblige when it comes to something I must have or when one of my friends offers up the temptation. After seeing it first in 3D and then for a second time the following day, in traditional format, I really couldn’t spot the differences, except when it came to a very specific scene in which the camera looks down and then up again.  In 3D these camera shots made me super dizzy, however that could have just been from the intense action of the film’s third act.

The movie’s initial beginning is slow, but I know that is because there is so much other story than what we see happening on screen. To get some context without the usual scrawl the narrative needed a prologue to set up the action of the whole film. Without doing so, I don’t think the emotion that followed would have been as real.

The main message I gathered from the story (other than “Rebellions are built on hope”) was that tyranny consumes. The tyrannical government of the Empire just gathered up anything and everything they wanted, no matter the cost, even if it was at their own expense. The other message I gathered is that war is not some silly game or entertainment.  It, like tyranny, has a cost in which everyone must pay.

Since my two viewings, I have read as many reviews as I could to see what other thoughts they had, mainly because my bias is so obvious when it comes to Star Wars. Therefore, I wanted to see what others had to say when it came to the film.

One of the main complaints I found in my search was with the movie’s plot holes, which there aren’t that many (if at all.) The problem with any Star Wars film is that there is SO much other backstory when it comes to even the smallest of details that it is hard to cover in a two-hour slot. The one complaint I found strange was that every one of the planets visited in the story had a title announcing them. While that is a break from the usual Star Wars way, I understand the choice in this context. The story is truly galactic and in the beginning of the movie, the story jumps so quickly from one planet to the next that one could easily get lost in the shuffle. I can imagine hearing some girlfriend whisper to her boyfriend “Is this place the same place as the one in that other movie?” The only planet that needed no announcement was Mustafar, the home to Darth Vader’s sanctuary. It took me aback because I did not realize what it was until I did a little Google search after the movie. Then it dawned on me why the director may have left out this particular cue. It didn’t need an introduction. Any fan worth his salt would know what planet Vader would choose to call home.

Some of the cameos or the sly “nod and winks” to the audience were fun, however one really bothered me and felt needless, almost like they had a checklist of things to hit for the movie to be worthwhile. However, it was only one small moment that I could easily forgive its presence, but I cannot help but ask “why?” Is this duo getting their own spin-off film? Don’t get me wrong, I would still pay to see it, even though I find them needless. It’s Star Wars afteall.

There were so many aspects of the film that made it special for me, but the one that makes me squeal with delight is how much brevity it adds to the following film “A New Hope.”

As many reviewers have mentioned countless times, and I am going to add to it, is that the idea of a major flaw in this monstrous Death Star seemed too coincidental. It was almost as if the Empire was daring someone to just try and take down it’s planet of destruction. After watching Rogue One it becomes clear and it makes the overall story for “A New Hope” that much richer. It is that, that makes me such a Star Wars fan. There are so many stories that enrich and give further life to the ones countless people have come to know and love. Going back to re-watch the previous films, after having watched the new ones, gives them even more power because the viewer knows, and it makes what happen feel that much more important.

In addition to the story, the actual filming of the scenes is incredible. I was so concerned that it wouldn’t “feel” like a Star Wars film but it really held its own.  Gareth Edwards’, the director, use of light was fantastic. I don’t know if that was intentional, as the story is a tale between the light and dark, or if that is just his own unique style. There is one scene in particular that concerns a pitch black hallway and the ignition of a crimson lightsaber that was pure perfection and one of the scenes that slayed even me.

The acting was also perfect.  The band of misfits that come together to steal the Death Star plans are so believable that I instantly fell in love with all of them. The real star, though, is K-2SO the former Imperial droid turned rebel.

As it pains me to do, I have intentionally left out any specifics in this review. I know there are many among me that don’t want any “spoilers” and while I am not of their ilk I do respect their desire to go into a film with no expectations. So I have tried my best and if I have given something away, well… I apologize.

Overall, the film was a wonderful adventure to add to the colorful tapestry of the Skywalker Saga. More than likely, I will end up seeing it two more times before the end of the New Year and love it equally with each viewing. However, for contexts sake, I also really enjoyed (and like) the prequel films, so judge me accordingly.

(Four Stars)

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Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story