Gareth
Edward’s ‘Rogue One’ kickstarts the first in the standalone ‘Star Wars
story’ series. It’s a clever way to kick things off, because this is a
story in the universe that most are familiar with, but has plenty of
twists and turns to be pretty consistently surprising. It also ‘feels’
more like a Star Wars movie than even The Force Awakens in a lot of
ways, but that could be due to the setting (it takes place right before
episode IV: A New Hope). Overall, I loved this movie. I know that’s no
surprise to people that know me, as I’m inherently in the bag for every
new Star Wars thing, but this movie still blew away my
expectations. Rogue One had to do far less than Force Awakens, without
having to reintroduce Star Wars to the masses, as well as set up a whole
new trilogy of movies. Without the pressure to lay all of that
foundation, Rogue One is able to tell a complete, self-contained story
(except for the end, but I’ll get to that) that is a great example of
how to do a prequel correctly in the Star Wars universe.

If
you’ve read this far, I just want to say this up front *COMPLETE
SPOILERS FOR ROGUE ONE FROM HERE ON OUT* I just can’t talk about
everything I want to without spoiling some pretty substantial story
beats, so come back to this after you’ve seen it. Overall, the story of
how the rebels learn about and attain the Death Star plans was better
than anything I imagined as a kid (and believe me, I sure thought about
it a lot as a young Star Wars fan). One of the best aspects was how the
rebels and empire weren’t just black and white, good and evil. From the
beginning, when Cassian gets intel from a source, and kills him after
because he’ll slow him down, I knew this was going to be different. In
times of war, both sides have to do things they’re not proud of to win.
That also leads to another great aspect of the movie: that Rogue One
puts the ‘Wars’ back in ‘Star Wars’.

The
action in this movie is some of the best ever for the series, and I
think Gareth Edward’s touch for grounded and gritty combat is a huge
benefit. This is probably as close as we’ll ever get to a Saving Private
Ryan-style Star Wars movie. The final act alone is amazing, and true to
the franchise tradition of having interconnected scenes following our
leads (Cassian and Jyn), secondary characters (Bodhi, Chirrut, Baze,
etc.) and a huge space battle that all rely on one another’s success.
I’ve also got to give props to Disney, for having the balls to kill off
LITERALLY EVERY MAIN CHARACTER. I understood that most, or many of them
would die, but man I didn’t expect that ending. That leads me to another
point on Rogue One: that it enriches the original Star Wars in a way
the Lucas prequels never even came close to achieving. Now when I see ‘A
New Hope’, I’m going to remember Jyn, Cassian, and the rest of Rogue
One, and the sacrifice the rebels made in order to have a possibility of
restoring peace to the galaxy.

I
want to talk about the bad guys of Rogue One as well, in particular
Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader, two of the most talked about aspects
of the movie. If you couldn’t tell, Tarkin (originally played by Peter
Cushing, who passed away over 20 years ago) was a fully computer
generated character in this movie. I could tell pretty quickly, but my
fiancĂ© couldn’t, which really goes to show how convincing the cg Tarkin
was. I thought it was a bold, if a bit odd choice, that in the end,
distracted from the story more than it aided it. Darth Vaders inclusion,
on the other hand, almost completely made up for the prequels in my
opinion. It gave him his fangs back, after neutering our image of him
for three movies straight. His final scene in the hallway of the rebel
ship is TERRIFYING. It’s like a scene straight out of Friday the 13th,
the way Vader cuts through the cannon fodder Rebels like sliced bread.

Overall,
I thought this was an incredibly fun, intense, and impactful entry to
the Star Wars cannon. It actually does what a prequel should, which is
to enrich the originals (and explains away many peoples biggest gripe
with ‘A New Hope’). I’m still undecided on whether I like Rogue One or
Force Awakens more, as each have strengths and weaknesses. R1 ‘feels’
more like Star Wars, and actually expands the universe for the first
time in decades, but has mostly thinly written characters. Force Awakens
brought back old favorites and made some great new characters, although
it was fiercely beholden to the original Star Wars. Overall, I’m glad
Disney has the reigns to Star Wars, and hope they continue to expand the
world of Star Wars and start to give us original, creative stories in
the future.

That’s
gonna do it for my thoughts on Rogue One. Coming up soon, I’m going to
be catching some of the awards season movies that are slowly trickling
into San Antonio theaters. Hopefully La La Land, Manchester By the Sea,
Moonlight, and a couple more. Also I’ll be doing the annual Top 8 (which
may be changed to a Top 10 this year, still thinking about it) coming
some time in January. As always, thanks for checking out the blog, and
keep an eye out for the Top whatever # of 2016 coming soon!

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