Last night, the first of its kind, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, (previously and better titled a Star Wars Anthology film)-- a film set in the Star Wars galaxy, but not immediately focused on the Skywalker family saga, hit theaters. In many ways Rogue One is quite the experimental journey for a Star Wars film...some of which pays off and some of which doesn't. But the question is, after my major disappointment in last year's The Force Awakens, did Rogue One leave me just as cold? Thankfully the answer is no, and I enjoyed the film quite a lot more than The Force Awakens. Was it the flawless film that some hype would have you believe? No. It was far from perfect and in some ways had just as many flaws as The Force Awakens... they just weren't the type of flaws that left me fuming this time.
As you may have heard, Rogue One is all about a group of rebels banding together to attempt to steal the plans to the newly built Death Star. Rogue One is not a sequel to The Force Awakens, but takes place immediately before the events of the original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Specifically it follows the tale of a young woman named Jyn Erso, whose father was a brilliant scientist captured by the Empire to complete their ultimate power of destruction when she was just a child.
Rogue One decided against having the traditional theme and crawl to open the film, which as a traditionalist, I didn't really care for. The opening scenes set during Jyn's youth were nice setup to her character, but the transition to her adulthood is jarring. In fact, that's kind of the problem with the first act of the film in general. Scenes on their own are fine but don't flow together well. There are so many characters to introduce us to that the beginning feels a bit clunky. Unfortunately, with so much to juggle, no one is given too much depth and the beginning fails to properly set up and earn the emotional moments in the second half of the film. I think there's some dead weight with some of the characters here, that if they focused on a smaller group and let their personalities shine a bit more the film would have had more character depth and camaraderie between everyone. Also.... I know I'm contradicting myself when I'm saying less characters should have been shoehorned in... but more Vader would have been nice. And a Palpatine cameo.
Now let me get back to the positive to assure you that I did enjoy this film. The final act is absolutely thrilling (although I'd love to see an alternate cut of this film, because from the trailers it looks like the ending was almost entirely reshot.) The thing I hated the most about The Force Awakens was creating something completely unoriginal when you had a galaxy of potential storylines at your fingertips. Rogue One hasn't been done before (at least in Star Wars,) and it feels fresh. Best of all to me, it felt like a film that truly tries to tie all trilogies together and bind the galaxy together....and for a pretty divided fandom I feel like that's a very wise thing to do. I thought Felicity Jones and Diego Luna were likable leads who just needed some more small personal moments. Maybe if Rogue One had given more to that and less to CGI characters the film could have been a bit more well-balanced. In the end, though it's not a perfect or flawless film by any means....it successfully got me a little excited about Star Wars again. And that is a very good thing. RATING: 8/10