By: T. Olajide
Disney and Lucasfilm have been looking for a way to expand the franchise and continue the legacy of Star Wars, and while the Force Awakens was a successful re-launch and a laudable step it was truly just the tip of the iceberg.
Rogue One has been dubbed as the movie made for fans, and without giving too much of the plot away I would most definitely agree. But I’ll go further and say that this is a movie for fans long forgotten, downcast and overlooked by the sci-fi and speculative fiction community. Although there was not much to be desired in terms of more diverse female representation, we cannot afford to overlook the wholesome Asian representation, what many don’t know about Star Wars is that it was heavily influenced by Chinese legend and so for many Donnie Yen stands as a long overdue beacon. Similarly, Riz Ahmed proves that Southern Asian representation within the nerd community cannot be downplayed or overlooked.
The film takes place in the immediate lead-up to the original Star Wars (AKA Episode IV: A New Hope) and focuses on the Rebel Alliance learning about the existence of the Death Star and the subsequent hunt to steal the plans for the deadly battle station that could be key to destroying it. It could be described as the contextual backstory for A New Hope, released almost 40 years ago.
Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, former criminal recruited by Rebel leader Mon Mothma to help find her father, Galen Erso played by Mads Mikkelsen, a brilliant scientist who has been forced into working on the Death Star project in as a leading engineer. Jyn works with Rebel operative Diego Luna’s character, Cassian Andor and his droid, K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk, along the way Jyn meets other noteworthy figures like ex-Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook played by Riz Ahmed, and the extremist anti-Empire warrior, Saw Gerrara played by Forest Whitaker. Jyn’s mission will bring her into contact a couple of formidable fighters who weren’t part of the plan initially, Cassian encounter Chirrut Îmwe played by Donnie Yen and Baze Malbus played by Wen Jiang.
It is interesting to note that none of the characters in Rogue One are Jedi or even potential Jedi, although Chirrut has deep belief in the force. Many commentators describe the overarching feel of the movie as a periodic war time movie, watching the film I got a huge sense of working in the trenches. There were battles in the forest, streets and Scarif. I respect that while this had connective elements to other aspects of the franchise, it still maintained it’s own unique elements.
IGN gave an amazing review of the power of the cast;
“Given the film is introducing so many new faces, it’s understandable that not all of Rogue One’s characters are given in-depth backgrounds, but there’s enough provided to root for folks like the endearing duo of Chirrut and Baze, and their action hero moments are easy to cheer on. There are a couple of cases though where it feels like a bit more backstory would have helped provide motivation — most notable, perhaps, with Bodhi, whose huge decision to betray the Empire, prior to the start of the film, doesn’t feel fully fleshed out.”
I must give an honourable mention to James Earl Jones, who graces the screen once more as Darth Vader. It’s hard to hold back when familiar villains reintroduce themselves to us, I also appreciate the use of mystery — we didn’t get too much of Darth Vader, but we got just enough of him to anticipate what could be coming next.
Commentators and Star Wars fans alike have also made an interesting point on how Rogue One addresses the sense of moral boundaries, not just on the dark side but also in the rebel alliance. I think that when we consider villains we often overlook nuance, it’s refreshing to finally consider that ‘the good guys’ are also layered and not just two dimensional narrative devices used to drive a plot. Villains aren’t the only ones who face moral turmoil.
My final verdict is this, the film is my cup of tea. Not only is it slightly raw and edgy, it is a true Star Wars story. It is nostalgic enough to pay homage to episodes 1–7, but strong enough to stand on it’s own two feet. I’m obsessed and yes, I’m getting it on blu ray.