DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
This is not the first Star Wars spin-off, but it is joining a legacy of sub par entries to the franchise, certainly as where the big screen has been concerned, with two Ewoks movies and The Clone Wars TV pilot come movie to contend with. But Rogue One is first to take on the mantle of a blockbuster and attempt to compete with the very best of the Saga, if not join them.
In many ways, Rogue One is the prequel that we have been waiting for, taking place directly before the original movie, A New Hope, Gareth Edwards of Monsters (2010) and Godzilla fame, has managed to create a fan boy’s dream following the events which are mentioned in the opening crawl for that classic movie, the theft of the Death Star plans which would ultimately lead to Luke Skywalker’s “shot in a million” to destroy the moon sized planet killer.
But here, the task was to both take Star Wars in new new direction as well as to flesh out the story of the Star Wars saga itself. They manage to pull this off with the only real complaint being the pacing which is sporadic at best. With a combination of contrived plotting and uneven pacing, the starker, war movie which this is, can feel at times, like a check list of everything that fans have wanted to see on the big screen since 1983 and as such, runs the risk of being a vacuous, through-away movie, the “greatest hits” as it were.
But I feel that it skirts this issue and manages to stay on the side of narrative integrity, just about. We finally see Darth Vader, post Episode III for the first time in a life action film since 2005, something which the prequels failed to deliver and whilst at first it seemed to be a crowd pleasing cameo, by the finale, it paid off perfectly, as did the resurrection of the late Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, with the aid of ground breaking, if not morally questionable CGI effects. This was also used to bring us a cameo from Princess Laia (1977) to great effect.
Also, integrating stock footage of the original Red and Gold Squadron pilots from Star Wars (1977) and the demise of the original Red 5, who’s place Luke Skywalker would assume, were all nice touches.
In the end, at best Rogue One serves to turn the original Star Wars movie into and two part epic, with this movie seamlessly leading into the opening of Star Wars but how does it hold up in its own right?
Well, it is entertaining, well acted, if not let down by Gareth Edwards’ slightly uneven direction, but how the notorious re-shoots, which have clearly left several key shots form the trailers on the cutting room floor and possibly changes the finale significantly, effected this is as yet unknown, and Michael Giacchino’s slightly over the top bombastic score, Rogue One will certainly be an entertaining and action packed entry into the Star Wars universe.
But the true success of this film lies with its expansion of the Saga as a whole, bridging the less popular prequels with the original trilogy for the first time on the big screen, taking on finally, what J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens (2015) deliberately chose not too. Hopefully Episode VIII (2017) follow in the same vein, finally repairing some of the issues which Lucas’ much derided prequels, which at their heart, may have had much more to offer than Lucas’ poor direction let us see the first time around.