Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

I’m addicted to words. I have a sick obsession with them. Whenever I see a word I don’t know, I instantly look it up. The more words you know, the better you are able to describe situations, events, and your own emotions. It doesn’t matter the word. To me, simple or complex, words are special. The word rebel has a few different meanings. The first definition involves the noun. A rebel is someone who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler. The second definition is the act of rebelling, the verb itself. This means the same thing basically. To rise in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler.

The thing about words is we use them incorrectly too often. Well, not incorrectly but we are hyperbolic with our words sometimes. A popular phrase among college students is to say an exam “raped” them. Now you and I both know that an exam can’t rape anyone, but that word drives home the emphasis of how hard the exam was. Makes sense, right? I’m only explaining it because the word rebel is used often when describing anyone who doesn’t follow the system. We use the word in even simpler terms sometimes. When a young child is causing a disturbance in class, and is sent to the principal’s office, the word they sometimes used to describe the troubled student is rebel. A bit much for someone who might just need a hug, don’t you think? Words can be hurtful or misleading if not used correctly.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story shows us the true definition of the word rebel. Both the noun and the verb. This film showed us the true horrors of war. Yes, the franchise is based around the word “war” and in almost every movie a war happens. But Rogue One showed us flawed characters, high stakes, and the reality of war really means. This was an extremely relevant film. It spoke on issues such as imperialism in a time where Americans are sometimes blinded by their love of being an “American.” Every person that was a part of the main cast was a minority. Every single person who held a position of power in the Empire was a white male. This movie spoke to me very clearly about the lens through which rebellion and rebels are viewed through. A plethora of factors determine who you root for. This movie didn’t make us love the rebels and it didn’t make us hate the Empire. We were just along for the ride.

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EXPECTATIONS

This is going to be the most negative part of this review. I absolutely loved this film. Because of its relevance, it is my favorite Star Wars story of all time. At the time this film was announced though, I didn’t have the same enthusiasm. I’m a Star Wars die-hard. I have seen every film probably at least 15-20 times. The main thing I enjoy about the universe though are the Jedi. Lightsaber battles, the force, all of that stuff made me fall in love with Star Wars when I was a kid. On top of that, this movie felt like a cash grab to me. Even before the success of The Force Awakens, I knew Disney had plans of expanding the Star Wars universe into a profitable franchise. Skepticism was my middle name for a while when it came to discussions about the Star Wars universe. I thought this movie was going to be a bunch of action, but no soul. The rational side of my brain told me everyone was going to die. Since I already knew everyone was going to die, and I knew the outcome of the film, I wasn’t excited for this film at all. I wasn’t quiet about it either. I tweeted it numerous times. I also talked about my nervousness in some of my past reviews.

My opinions of this movie started to change when the first official trailer was released. It interested me no doubt. The second trailer was even better than the first. By the time this movie came out, I was ready. But those questions were still burning my brain. How were they going to humanize a bunch of people we don’t care about? They aren’t in any Star Wars films so the only time we have with these characters are these 2 and a half hours. Also, how does this story keep my interest for 2 and half hours? Well, my expectations were shattered. This film was simple in terms of plot. Simple in terms of Star Wars plot too. None of the characters underwent extreme development. We didn’t learn too much about our rebel friends, nor did we learn a ton about the men from the Empire. Simple was the thing that saved this movie though. Too much complexity would have muddled the film. By the end of this film, I cared deeply for these characters. I don’t know if my expectations of this film were too pessimistic, maybe I need to stay off the internet, but this film could have been Fan4stic bad. As much crap as George Lucas gets, he did create most of this universe. Rogue One shows us why Star Wars is the greatest film universe ever created. I’d even go so far as to say that Star Wars is the greatest universe ever created in fiction. This film exposed what the “War” in Star Wars is all about.

 

NEW FACES

The story starts off with Galen Erso being confronted by Orson Krennic. Galen is a talented scientist who has been tapped by the Empire to build the Death Star. Krennic is a hired suit who travels to the planet where Galen is hiding. Galen has a soul. He knows the Empire is building a death weapon. Their only intention in building that weapon is to rule with fear. More weapons, more weapons, more weapons. I’m pretty sure our President-elect sent out a tweet advocating more weapons. Nuclear ones at that. Death weapons. Anyways, we’re introduced to Jyn Erso here too. She’s Galen’s daughter. Their mother is killed by the Empire’s soldiers when she tried to fight. Jyn is forced to hide while her father is taken away. This was a solid scene that established these characters.

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The movie flash forwards some years after that scene. The character I want to give a shout out who may not get the credit he deserves is the defective cargo pilot, Bodhi Rook. Without him, without his bravery, this story doesn’t happen. Sure he wasn’t firing weapons left and right, beating up bad guys with his bare fists, but his role is undeniable. The entire plot of the movie revolves around his role. Rook is a former pilot for the Empire who defected. Why? Well, Galen Erso sent him to find Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker, so he can get a message to Saw. Saw was a protector of some sort to Jyn when she was younger. Over the years, Saw led his own resistance army separate from the Rebellion.

When we first see Jyn, she’s being freed from the clutches of the Empire. Here, we are introduced to Cassian Andor. He’s an intelligence officer for the Rebellion. They plan to use Jyn to get a meeting with Saw so they can finally kill him.

I know all of that seems like a lot of information, but the movie did a fantastic job blending this all together. A good movie has multiple stories going on at once, while maintaining a core story as well. Our characters’ multiple stories converge on the planet of Jedha. That’s where Saw’s base is, where Rook has been taken to see Saw, and where Cassian and Jyn go to see Saw. Once here, Saw is shown to be a beaten mad man. He’s the poor man’s Darth Vader. I love Forest Whitaker, but this role wasn’t for him. Someone else could have portrayed the mad man a bit better than he did. Forest is best used for serious roles where he can show his wisdom. It’s a small complaint, but he wasn’t impactful at all to me.

Bodhi Rook gives Saw the message that Galen gave to him. During this time, Orson Krennic is ordered by Grand Moff Tarkin (Tarkin was re-created via CGI of course. While I admire the attempt, my goodness he looked like a video game character. But to the untrained eye, he looked good enough) to destroy the city of Jedha using the Death Star. The Death Star is Krennic’s baby. The dialogue between him and Tarkin was believable. They sounded like two politicians.

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On Jedha, the first spring of emotion since Jyn’s mother’s death happens. Jyn is taken to see Saw. She is sour about the way Saw abandoned her when she was younger. We don’t receive much information here about her past, we actually don’t get much throughout the movie at all. It’s not even a complaint, because Jyn as a character can be expanded through other mediums such as comics or novels. So, Saw plays the message Galen sent to him, with only Jyn in the room. Felicity Jones’ acting was spectacular here. She almost collapses from the sight of her father. Mads Mikkelsen does a great job portraying sadness, anger, and despair on his face during this scene. He tells Jyn that he never forgot about her. Even more, Galen tells her of a weakness he designed in the Death Star that no one will be able to detect. A fusion reactor that will explode given the right amount of energy. The explosion of the fusion reactor will destroy the entire Death Star. I LOVE when movies, novels, comics, television shows, or whatever, I love when they can answer important, lingering questions about their series or franchise. In Amazing Spider-Man 2, while that movie wasn’t perfect, we learned WHY Spider-Man is in fact Spider-Man. I thought that was awesome. This movie answered a gargantuan question regarding one of the biggest plot holes in science fiction film history.

The movie picks up after this. As soon as Jyn finished listening to that message, I was like, “Ah snap these fools about to get the plans, aren’t they?” The city of Jedha was being destroyed so everyone had to leave. Here, we get our first death. Saw is done running. Everyone else leaves while he absorbs the blast from the Death Star. It was a cool moment, but his character was a major letdown.

The other characters who were introduced during this time were all fantastic. K-2SO is a reprogrammed Imperial droid that travels with Cassian. His moments in Jedha are funny. Chirrut Imwe, played by Donnie Yen (about freaking time he’s in a film like this) and Baze Malbus, played by Jiang Wen are my two favorite characters. Chirrut is a blind man who believes in the force. Not only does he believe in the force, he is a skilled fighter who seems to have Jedi-like abilities, but not really. Malbus has one of the coolest weapons in Star Wars history. The two of them are best friends. Their banter was enjoyable. These two, Bodhi Rook, Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO leave Jedha. Cassian is one of the most interesting characters in this movie. When we first see him, he kills a man. No, this isn’t Greedo he kills. Cassian kills some weird, anxious guy who might have compromised his mission. Instantly, I was turned off. Later on, Cassian is ordered by the Rebellion to kill Galen Erso on sight. He’s the main contributor to Death Star as far as the Rebellion are concerned. He must be taken out.

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EADU

Our group travels to Eadu next. The conflict between Jyn and Cassian continues to grow here. Cassian is dedicated to his mission. Kill Galen Erso. Jyn tells him about the message, the one that only she saw, but he isn’t impressed. He doesn’t like the fact that she was so against doing anything before, now that her father tells her to, she’s all gung-ho for the Rebellion.

The planet of Eadu is Galen’s research facility. Tarkin discovers that the Imperial defector came from Eadu. He uses this information to pull rank even further on Krennic. Embarrassed, Krennic travels to Eadu to ask Galen who sent the defector. While this is happening, the Rebellion enters the battle. They destroy the base. Before they do though, Galen confesses his crimes to Krennic. Krennic pulls the ultimate punk move by killing the surrounding scientists with Galen. The Rebel pilots then fly over the base and bomb directly where Galen is standing. Jyn reveals herself to her father right before the bombs hit. Cassian watches from afar with his sniper. He had every chance to kill Galen, but he didn’t. This was a solid moment for him. He analyzed the situation and went with his gut. A bold move by our Rebel officer. On the ground, Galen is mortally wounded. Now I know that Galen and Jyn Erso aren’t the greatest father-daughter pair in the history of film, but damn they made it believable for the amount of screen time we saw. Galen dies and Jyn is heartbroken. Back at the Rebel base, we see a conversation about whether or not Jyn’s claims about her father are true. Not many people believe her. Not many people want to take a chance against the Empire. After much politicking and deliberating, it’s decided that they won’t follow through with an attack against the Empire. Movie over, right? Nah, bra, not even close!

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SCARIF

The last act of this movie is the BEST act of any Star Wars film. My second favorite is the third act from Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith. ESB mainly for cinematic reasons, RotS because of the insane lightsaber duels we get to witness. This movie though, exceeds both of those because of the pure emotion that these characters got out of me. I’m comfortable with myself as a person. I have no problem opening myself up emotionally and crying during a film. Whether it’s the end of the Notebook, or that scene in Freedom Writers where the teen talks about his horrible summer, I’ll cry. This act made me cry more than I ever have in an action film though. Definitely the most out of any Star Wars film. The only scene close to it was Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith.

Our group goes to Scarif last. Jyn is alone at the end of her debate with the Rebellion leaders. Cassian however, comes full circle in his character. He and a crew of rebel soldiers decided to accompany her for a suicide mission to Scarif. The soldiers, and the rest of the crew board the stolen Imperial ship. Rook has to come up with a name to get them past Imperial security. He uses an old code and dubs the ship “Rogue One.” I got goosebumps when he said it, because I knew they were going to earn every bit of that name. When they land, the battle starts. Chirrut, Baze, and the rest of the soldiers are on the ground. Jyn and Cassian are inside with K-2SO trying to locate the Death Star plans. The action is tense. Scarif as a planet is breathtaking.

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Things start to heat up when some of our favorite characters start to die. The first one to go is K-2SO. The sassy droid was a welcomed addition to the droid family. My personal favorite is BB-8, but K-2SO was a good character. He sacrifices himself so that Jyn and Cassian have more time in the file room to look for the plans. As he’s being shot, he says “Goodbye,” to his friend Cassian. It took everything he had to say those words. I couldn’t believe that the droid was the first to go, but since he was, I knew more heartbreak was on the way. Next, Chirrut Imwe is killed. The ground soldiers got some assistance from the Rebellion. When they learned that Cassian and crew were on Scarif, some X-Wing pilots went to Scarif to assist the effort. The planet though, is guarded by a shield. It blocks physical objects of course, but communication is also blocked as well. Each character is instrumental in the battle plans getting to the Rebellion. As I said earlier, nothing happens without our boy Rook. He informs every one of the master switch. The master switch gives the ground support communication with the Rebellion fleet. No one can reach it though. Chirrut decides this is his time. He constantly repeats the phrase, “I am one with the force, and the force is with me,” as he heads out into the blaster fire. Most of the shots are missing him. The man seems to be possessed as he hits the master switch. Almost instantly though, he’s killed. Baze is distraught, seeing the death of his friend. Instead of mocking his greatest ally because of his beliefs, Baze goes out like a boss. Holding Chirrut in his arms, he repeats the phrase. “I am one with the force.” Whether he believes it or not is irrelevant. This is something bigger than him and he knows it. Even know, as I type this, it’s hard to contain myself. Baze is killed soon after in a blaze of glory. His weapon kills as many Stormtroopers as it can before he dies on the battlefield. Bodhi Rook is next to go. All while our main characters are dying, the rebels are being wiped as well. Like I said earlier, this movie was masterful in its efforts to have multiple stories going on. Rook informs the Rebels that the shield surrounding the planet needs to be destroyed in order for the plans to be uploaded to them. Soon after, a grenade kills Rook. One of the cheapest deaths for the most important man in the movie, but I think that was the point of this movie. War isn’t glamorous.

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The battle in space above Scarif was beyond epic. I found myself screaming and yelping more than I should have, but damn I didn’t care. This movie made me feel like I in those ships with those brave pilots. The movie did this Call of Duty style POV shot of an X-Wing one time where I felt like I was on a roller coaster. Some of the shots the used weren’t possible in 1977. The use of effects, especially the effects during this fight scene make me love movies. The rebels eventually disable the shield. Jyn retrieve the plans, but she is confronted by Krennic. Krennic is shot by Cassian, who was absent for a bit. Jyn is able to get the plans of the Death Star to the Rebellion. The last wave of deaths hit us hard however when Tarkin arrives in the Death Star. He orders the destruction of the Imperial base located on Scarif. The lasers charge up and we witness the destruction of the base. Krennic is killed, and so are our two heroes. As the shockwave hits them, they embrace. Cassian tells Jyn that her father would have been proud of her. They continued to embrace and are evaporated by the explosion.

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After all of that, this movie should be over. Nope, Star Wars is the greatest for a reason. Darth Vader made two appearances in this film. Earlier, he met with Krennic. Krennic is desperate to be in control of the Death Star. He wants to meet with the Emperor and show him the progress he’s made on the super weapon. Vader isn’t impressed with Krennic at all. Later, Vader’s ship arrives. It kills the remaining rebels. He then boards the rebel command ship where Vader unleashes his fury! I mean, me explaining it doesn’t do it any justice. The pure force (no pun intended) with which he kills these rebel soldiers is terrifying. Vader is truly upset about the plans getting away from him. He charges through the hallway slicing through men. They frantically get the plans from one man to the next until they are aboard another ship. The final shot of the movie are the plans being delivered to Princess Leia (Rest in Peace, Carrie Fisher) right before A New Hope. That is the exact word she says too before the movie cuts off, “Hope.” A perfect end to the perfect Star Wars film.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS/REFLECTIONS

This movie was pretty much perfect. I want to talk about the development of the characters and some of the symbolism throughout this film. In my reviews, I like to talk about a multitude of problems facing our society. Am I some wise monk who has all the answers on how to fix our problems? No, but I observe and this site is my way of conveying my thoughts on what I’ve observed. When the film traveled to Jedha, instantly I got the feeling of the American-Iraq war, or the American occupation of Iraq/Afghanistan, or whatever fancy name you want to call it. The sight of the Stormtroopers walking down the street with tanks, reminded me of American soldiers walking down Middle Eastern streets with tanks. I’m not one to be blind with patriotism ever. I understand the United States has enemies, I understand that wars need to be fought. I refuse to believe or support wars for the sake of fear and resources however. For the sake of “democracy.” That’s what our involvement in the Middle East is. Sticking our nose where it doesn’t belong. Whether it’s for oil, power, or whatever new terrorist organization they tell us is rising, we didn’t go there for genuine reasons. The same thing can be said of the Empire’s involvement on Jedha. They were extracting the planet of kyber crystals. Why? Well, to help power the Death Star of course. The similarities between the two are undeniable. When Jyn and Cassian first encounter Saw’s rebels, they have a Middle Eastern freedom fighter type of vibe. We’ve been conditioned to hate the Empire during the course of its 40-year existence. We have seen the evils of Emperor Palpatine, Tarkin, and Vader. But some of the citizens of Coruscant may not see the evil. Some of them may see a good “Chancellor” who is dealing with a bevy of uprisings. The dogmatic Jedi on one end and the money laundering, war mongering Separatists on the other. They see Vader as a puppet of a system in dire need of reform, but it keeps them safe, so something must be going well. They are able to go to work every day. They are able to see their children go to school. They are even able to participate in local government so they feel they are making a change. They don’t experience Imperial life the way people in Jedha do. Or the way people in Tatoonie do. Or even on Cloud City. America is the Empire. It’s not an exaggeration because the amount of death we’ve caused, innocent death at that, has spawned some of these rebellious thoughts we see today. And for the love of god people I’m not just talking about fucking Obama and ISIS. America has been grooming us for a long time now, while they test out the rest of the world. It isn’t right and in my young life I’ve noticed too much not to speak up. The idea of America, it’s government protecting people, enabling the weak, empowering all, is something everyone dreams of. It’s the reason we have an immigration “problem.” I don’t see a problem with it at all, but you get my point. This movie hints at opening your view of the world. There’s more to the world than Keep up with the Kardashians and the New England Patriots. I only bring this up because I tend to see the same people who cheer the Rebels in Star Wars, are the same ones who are blinded by Patriotism. Blinded so much that they rush to judgement regarding anyone who speaks out against their beloved America. Ludicrous and backwards thinking. I know that everything in our world can be complicated, but fictional worlds like Star Wars are too. Yes, we’ve only experienced about 20 hours in their world, but it’s a vast one. Many different stories, backgrounds, and cultures. Not to mention the thousands of planets. Billions of reasons people would join the Rebellion or even support the Empire. Our heroes are usually forced into circumstances they usually aren’t ready for. The films usually involve them fighting with their morals. Are they doing the right thing? Is the cause even worth it? Is it worth losing their lives over? Patriotism or loyalty to their planet doesn’t fuel these people. But it does for us, unfortunately. Every fictional world we know of has come from us, humans. Star Wars is one of the most accurate depictions of our reality. Please don’t spend more time analyzing, examining, and dreaming about a fake, semi-real reality, when we’re living in a real one we’ve yet to figure out.

The development of these characters was very Star Wars-like, but this movie presented our characters in a different light. Cassian underwent the best transformation (given the information we have on him from the movie.) He kills a man at the beginning of the film. He shows he’s ready, willing, and definitely able to do absolutely anything in the name of the Rebellion. Has he ever killed a child before? An elderly person who was “possibly” working for the Empire? We didn’t get any information like that, but he was fully prepared to kill Jyn’s father in front of her. When he received the order, Cassian didn’t flinch. He went on the ship, talked to Jyn and sat up front with K-2SO. I wasn’t his biggest fan at all until he decided not to kill Galen. Even then, he was offended by Jyn’s shady morals when it came to joining the alliance. He reminded her that while she may be a part of this now, he was born into it. From the age of six, this child had no choice but to survive. Survive the grip of the Empire, not let it crush his spirit. While surviving, he learned that whatever must be done, must be done. Quickly, swiftly, and without hesitation. Cassian is a product of his environment. Back to my point earlier, I see a ton of “product of their environment” people all over. I also see “Well, I’d never do that, I make better choices,” people all over too. Some people in our society, more specifically country, have it rough from birth. Growing up in the projects, abusive family, poor family, whatever the case may be. Do their situations excuse their actions? Not all the time, no. But their situations unfortunately do define who they are as a person. When you truly understand someone’s situation, you can start to understand the person. Trust me, it isn’t hard when you let your brain do the work for you. Cassian was a complex man. Jyn was a complex woman. There was no doubt she had done questionable things before Cassian picked her up. Felicity Jones did a great job with her facial expressions throughout the course of the film. I enjoyed the growth of their relationship during this film too. I was happy they didn’t kiss in the film (although it looked as if the film was edited to look like they didn’t. I think that them not kissing added more emotion to their deaths. At the end of everything, they just needed someone to embrace. It was all over and the fact they had someone there to share it with made it better. An amazing moment.

Chirrut and Baze had been living on Jedha for who knows how long. They were forced to fight the Empire every day. Sure, Donnie Yen showed us a man who was funny, and likeable, but who knows how many men he had been forced to kill. Even Baze, who was rougher than his friend, no doubt had to make some very tough choices before we saw him. The last person we see grow the most was Rook. Bodhi was defected from the Empire. He was a brown minority amongst his white superiors. Who knows what he was forced to do (sounding a lot like Finn to me.) Rook told the group that Galen told him that this was his chance to do what was right. Right before he got the communications back up, he said that this was for Galen. How about that. Galen wasn’t the man’s father or even his mentor. In his final moments, Rook remembered the man who made him realize that doing the right thing could come at any time, even after years of doing the wrong thing. Galen Erso is the true hero of Rogue One. His dedication to Jyn helped him see things clearly. He’s the reason the Empire became so obsessed over their weapon that they couldn’t find the weakness and stop an untrained pilot from Tatooine from destroying their baby. Without him, people would have continued to suffer. Rebels would have continued to fight. And the Empire would have reigned supreme for Eons.

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This is an easy rank for me. While I do enjoy Finn and Rey more as characters, this is my favorite Star Wars film to date. I’m going to see it again this week. A perfect Star Wars film. 10/10

 

Did you enjoy the review? This was my first review of 2017 so I hope this starts things off on the right foot. I have a bunch of plans this year in terms of content so I hope you continue to read my reviews. It means a lot to me. Until next time! Peace, Love, and Comics!!

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