I was pretty critical of The Force Awakens, a movie that I felt spent way too much time whispering in the audience’s ear “see, it’s Star Wars!” So when they announced Rogue One, I was not only no more excited than I was for TFA, having seen what they could do, I was a little afraid.
Boy was I wrong.
Empire scientist Galen Erso is pursued by Imperial weapons designer Krennic, who demands he help build a new weapon for the Empire. His daughter, left nearly orphaned, grows up to hate the Empire and falls into a plan by the Alliance to contact her father when a spy reports that Galen has built a failure into his weapon, the Death Star. They set off on an adventure to retrieve the plans from the planet Eadu before the Empire can use this new weapon against them.
See, this is what TFA should have been. Okay, it’s still not Star Wars, but it’s a heck of a lot closer. I never once felt that they were trying to convince me to buy into the mythology, it was just a movie and you went along for the ride.
Unlike TFA, I never felt that the female lead was made female just to appeal to the social justice warrior mentality. Her gender was never made an issue. She was just a kick-ass character who was kick-ass for the sake of being kick-ass. This is absolutely not how Rey felt in TFA. And her team never felt like it was purposely built as multicultural pals from all walks of life. It was just people who happened to be whatever they were. This is how you cast a movie.
They also took a serious risk by… spoiler alert, killing absolutely all of the characters in the movie. Nobody survived. This is not a trilogy. It is purely stand-alone, which I find really surprising today, when everything has a sequel. Rogue One will not. These characters are all gone. And while I really enjoyed the characters, I will admit that their story is done and I really won’t miss them. This is excellent writing.
There were even sequences that made me feel like the original Star Wars, something that nothing in the prequels or TFA ever did. And as I said before, they didn’t feel the need to point any of it out. I got all of the references, I didn’t need anyone’s help, it was just great cinema.
The only real downside were the digital cameos of Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin. I don’t care what the technical creators say, they were very clearly CGI. I never felt for a second like they were real people. Of course, they had to be included as this is a direct lead-up to the original Star Wars trilogy and since both actors are dead and even if they weren’t, wouldn’t look like they did 40 years ago when the first movie came out, they really had no choice, but it was a bit jarring to see clear CGI in the middle of other human actors. They just don’t have it down yet.
If you’re like me and haven’t cared for anything past the original trilogy, I recommend you give Rogue One a shot. It isn’t perfect by any means, but it has the pedigree for greatness. It would be nice if Disney learned some lessons from this movie and started pushing future projects in this direction. I might even want to see some more of their not-Star Wars movies. Certainly this one has redeemed my look at a galaxy far, far away.