One of the first things you’ll notice upon watching Rogue One is that at the very beginning, there is no opening scroll. This is one of many differences between Rogue One and the other Star Wars movies, but definitely not the only reason why it stands out.
The Star Wars movies have always been fantastic stories. We’re always thrown into the middle of the action, and we follow our heroes as they fight against whatever evil they’re put up against. But it’s always the big heroes; the generals, the Jedi, the people who drive the war, but we’ve never seen much of it from the POV of the soldiers. Star Wars, despite having “war” in the name, has never really focused on the war in its movies. Sure, there were skirmishes here and there, but we were never given much on how the Imperial war machine has affected the lives of people in the galaxy.
This is Rogue One; a more human experience of the war. There is no focus on a “chosen one,” and the fantastical omnipresent machinations from The Force, if ever, are downplayed. We’re thrown deeper into the war, more so than when we saw the trench run, or the battle of Endor. We follow the people who are less likely to be in the history books, but whose contributions made everything else possible.
While the movie isn’t perfect, it delivers in all the right ways. The movie’s characters in particular, were an absolute treat and were all charming enough to get you invested in them. We have our heroine, whom you could say is the main Rogue of the story, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and the Rebel Intelligence Officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). The two are also joined by Imperial defector Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), mercenary Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), blind warrior Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and K-2SO(Alan Tudyk), a reprogrammed Imperial droid. Imperial Military Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) makes for a great villain, ham in all the right ways in his white cape. I honestly feel like he could have been a little more menacing, though that role is filled in by other characters pretty well.
Visually speaking, the movie was pretty great; while not as full of flash as the prequels, the set design and costumes felt more lived in, harkening back to the Original Trilogy. Lots of little homages to the previous movies, and though it feels kind of forced at times, it makes for a nice touch.
The action in particular was thrilling- being a martial arts movie fan myself, you’d think I’d dig Chirrut Imwe’s CQC scene against the Stormtroopers as seen in the trailers, but the action at the climax of the story was what had me gripping my seat, between the X-wing dogfights and the Rebel troopers storming the beaches.. man, what a rush.
While the script got a little trite for me at times, it thankfully didn’t take away too much from the storytelling itself. The movie’s plot is pretty simple after all, it’s essentially expanding on the opening crawl of A New Hope. Some might argue that the movie is essentially filler in the Star Wars saga, but I’d say it’s very welcome filler. Its message of fighting for hope isn’t something we see in a lot of movies nowadays, and Star Wars is a great way to tell that sort of story.
All in all, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story lives up to its title. it’s a Star Wars story. While it’s not one as grand as the heroism of the Jedi, or the struggle of a son redeeming his father as the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance, it’s a story from the same galaxy. It’s a story that deserves to be told, of the other heroes who we might not read about, and it’s a well-told story.