Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen
Plot: The story of how a small group of rebels stole the plans for the Death Star, which allowed the Rebellion to defeat the Empire in Episode IV.
Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is different from any Star Wars film we have seen, understandably so since it's a spin-off. One would notice the absence of the usual prologue crawl at the start, but the most notable departure is the fact that Rogue One is a mostly serious film, even more so than Episode III or V.
We begin with Jyn Erso, who as a child saw her father Galen being taken away by the Empire to help them build the Death Star, the ominous weapon capable of destroying an entire planet. As an adult, Jyn is sought by the Rebellion to help find her former mentor Saw Gerrera, who has recently captured a recently defected Imperial pilot. The pilot is carrying a message from her father containing critical information about the Death Star. In order to complete the mission and find the blueprints of the Death Star, Jyn teams up with rebel captain Cassian Andor, a reprogrammed Imperial droid, a mercenary, a blind monk and the pilot Bodhi Rook.
Gareth Edwards, who achieved mixed results with his last film Godzilla, manages to make his film different from the other Star Wars movies while still keeping in tune with the saga's space opera theme. As mentioned, the film is pretty serious and rather grim overall, with no Jedi in sight, no handsome smugglers and no cute or wisecracking droids, except for the rebel droid K-2SO, who gets a few memorable one-liners. Donnie Yen's Chirrut Imwe gets a few jokes in too while he's not fighting, but still the overall tone is dark and tragic.
Speaking of Yen, he's probably my favorite thing about Rogue One. As the blind monk capable of taking on ten stormtroopers the same way Ip Man fights ten Japanese fighters, Yen exudes presence and charisma. He makes a great partnership with Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus, who solidly gives his character a brave yet world weary look. Felicity Jones is great as Jyn and Diego Luna is alright as Cassian, a rebel who admits to having to do terrible things in his fight for the Rebellion. Alan Tudyk is always reliable as K-2SO, and Riz Ahmed rounds up the rebels as the pilot Rook. Forest Whitaker is interesting as the eccentric Saw Gerrera while Ben Mendelsohn also puts in good work as chief villain Director Kenric, whom the audience would be able to sympathize with since he's often stepped on by his superiors.
Rogue One does suffer from a few flaws, namely the lack of a proper space fight which Star Wars films are known for. There is one at the end but it is much too brief and forgettable. I also felt Jyn embraced the Rebellion's ideals much too easily after being happy on her own before then. Then there's Edwards' decision to use CGI to recreate the likenesses of characters like Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia, which really wasn't necessary (a decent lookalike would suffice in my opinion). But I did love Darth Vader's appearance at the end as he single-handedly disposes of a group of rebel soldiers. Pretty awesome sequence.
All in all, Rogue One is pretty good in its own way, hitting most of the right notes where it matters. It isn't as memorable as last year's Episode VII, but still something worth checking out. (8/10)