I knew from the opening shot of Rogue One that this wasn’t going to be like every other Star Wars movie. It wasn’t just the visual cues that gave it away. The ominous music and the lack of the legendary opening crawl emanated this vibe that this movie was going to be something different, something special. And oh it was. It was Star Wars like I’ve never seen it before.
Rogue One is tonally completely different from Star Wars as we know it. Rogue One is essentially a war movie, albeit one set in a galaxy far, far away (think Guns of Navarone set in space). It takes the happy, relatively fun feel of the other Star Wars movies and drags it down to Earth (or Tatooine, or Naboo, or whatever, you get the point). It’s gritty and realistic (well, as real as the Star Wars Universe can get), but somehow, it’s still Star Wars. That is what makes this movie special – despite being so different, it still feels so familiar.
In keeping with its theme of realism, Rogue One portrays the struggle between the Empire and the Rebellion as dirty and desperate, much like a real war, where the Rebellion, which has always been portrayed as squeaky-clean on screen, has to do some awful things to survive. This adds some much needed grey to the previously black and white story of Star Wars.
Rogue One didn’t really have much room to work with in terms of story. We already know what happens before and after the events of Rogue One – they’re called Episodes III and IV. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when it took a relatively straight-forward premise and made it so deeply personal and touching. By the end of this movie every single hair on my body was standing upright and within a few hours, I was already quoting it.
In a span of two hours, Rogue One made me fall in love with yet another crew of people on yet another ship, heading to save the galaxy. However, beware that Rogue One expects an attentive and intelligent audience; it doesn’t shove character exposition down your throat unlike a certain Suicide Squad. It expects you to study the characters’ body-language, the subtle nuances in their behaviour, their attitude and finally deduce what kind of people the characters are. I, for one, love it whenever movies do this.
It’s also a beautifully shot movie. Director Gareth Edwards does brilliantly to keep adding a grand sense of scale to the Star Wars saga, something that J.J. Abrams did quite well in The Force Awakens. For example, I knew that the Death Star was massive and was the size of a moon, but I never truly understood how big it was until I saw a Star Destroyer passing in front of it look minuscule in comparison to its focus lens frame (you know, the giant concavity on the surface). Similarly, the Walkers looked gigantic when their feet were crushing Rebel soldiers on the ground like ants. Edwards even changed the bright, poppy colour palette of the other Star Wars movies to a darker, more somber one to better fit the tone of the movie. Visually then, the movie is a triumph.
Rogue One definitely forges its own unique identity in the Star Wars saga, but it also never forgets that it’s a Star Wars movie. The movie is littered with Easter eggs, some that are so on-the-nose that the crew might as well be winking at the screen and some that are so subtle that even hardcore fans like me might miss them.
The movie does brilliantly to bridge the gap between the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy. However, what impresses me most is how it fixes nearly every plot-hole in A New Hope. The next time you watch Episode IV, you’ll know exactly why something that’s happening on-screen is happening.
Speaking of A New Hope, Darth Vader is in the movie… barely. I prefer it this way though because this movie isn’t about him, it’s about the group of people who try to steal the Death Star plans and I feel that giving him more screen-time would have detracted from them. So, if you came for a Darth Vader fest, I’m sorry to say that you’re watching the wrong movie – the Original Trilogy is what you’re looking for. In fact, if he wasn’t in this movie at all, I don’t think I’d love it any less. However, I am so glad that they did decide to use him because this movie has by far one of the most bad-ass Vader moments ever. Like I’ve said before, Rogue One excels at adding layers to the Star Wars universe and that one particular scene with Vader adds so much depth to his character.
Rogue One succeeds because it gives us a completely different perspective on something we thought we knew inside-out. It’s bold enough to step out of the series’ comfort zone, something that The Force Awakens didn’t do and in doing so, it gives the Star Wars saga a completely new dimension. In the end, that’s what Rogue One is all about – adding layers. It doesn’t redefine Star Wars, it doesn’t add anything monumental to the Star Wars Universe, but what it does do is take that Universe and polish it to the best of its ability. And it does that so damn well. If Disney can keep up this quality for all the coming Star Wars movies, the next few years of my life are going to be very happy indeed.