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As promised by Disney, we are about to get a whole lot more of Star Wars ever since they purchased Lucasfilm from The Bearded One. Last year, the first film of a new trilogy, The Force Awakens grossed more than a billion dollars. This weekend, the first “Non-Saga” Star Wars movie, Rogue One hit theaters. Set not in the current trilogy’s timeline, but instead in the original trilogy, just a little before Luke Skywalker and the Rebels blew up the first Death Star. Rogue One focuses on a group of Rebels as they try to steal the plans to the Death Star that helped make everything that happened in A New Hope come to fruition. Some were a little weary of the film, especially after rumors of reshoots surfaced (which usually means the studio didn’t have faith in the final product). So how was the movie?

MASSIVE SPOILERS – DO NOT READ WITHOUT HAVING SEEN THE MOVIE!

Friggin Awesome! This is the prequel fans have been waiting for!!! One that makes its own stories and connects to the Original Trilogy, but doesn’t give such blatant winks to fans that it’s blatant. George Lucas once said he made the prequels for himself (as he wanted to) and not 30-year-old fanboys who want things to be a certain way, and that’s his prerogative. However, Gareth Edwards is a fanboy who loves the source material and you can absolutely tell!

The film works on so many levels and the last 30 minutes is way more exciting than anything done in the prequels. Now that doesn’t mean that the film is without its faults. The middle act staggers a little, and some theatergoers were bored (to the point of falling asleep) during that time. The film also makes use of CGI to resurrect characters from the original film who the actors for them are either deceased or too old and although impressive, the uncanny valley is a little distracting. All in all, this is a remarkable film. It already has an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is on track for a $155 million opening weekend. So what stands out in Rogue One?

The SW Universe Expands… and It’s Not So “Good Vs. Evil”

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Up until now, the Star Wars films have been about good vs. evil, the Jedi, and the Skywalkers. However, there is a rich, vast galaxy that we still can explore. Rogue One is the first film that actually shows us another angle of the Star Wars universe. Within the first 15 minutes, we are introduced to multiple new planets that have their own customs cultures.

Another thing about Rogue One that stands out is that the film operates on a very gray line. As soon as we meet Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor, he’s meeting a contact for some details about the Empire and when they are about to get caught, he willingly kills his contact. And this is the guy we are going to root for? Andor is also assigned by his command to kill Galen Erso after meeting his daughter, something that is also troubling. If the original trilogy used the good vs evil theme from WWII, Rogue One takes influences from the War on Terrorism. However, it plants a twist on it. This time our heroes are the insurgents/terrorists rebelling against an occupying force (The Empire) and they go through very morally ambiguous means for their ends.

K-2SO Is Awesome!

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In the Star Wars Universe, droids have always been a part of it. We have spent the most of our time with R2D2 and C3P0. However, they (and BB8) have been companion droids. Although they were a part of the action, they have always been bystanders. K-2SO basically Rocket and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy combined into a singular person, a wise-cracking strongman who does not mess around! K-2SO is a repurposed Imperial droid who is basically this film’s Chewbacca. He is loyal to Cassian Andor, and antagonistic with Jyn Erso. Many of the comedic moments of the film come from him, and in the end (SPOILER), he has a heroic death where he sacrifices himself for Cassian and Jyn to complete their mission.

Star Wars Mythology Continues To Grow

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe) Behind the Scenes on set during production. Ph: Footage Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL 2016.

One of the most memorable characters from the film was Chirrut Îmwe. The blind monk is a strong believer in The Force, yet is not a Jedi. Much like Lor San Tekka from The Force Awakes (where that character was a member of the “Church of the Force”), he was a “normal” who believed in the Force as a religion, although he was not a Jedi. Now in many non-canon comics/novels, there are beings who are “force-sensitive” but not Jedi’s. After seeing Chirrut Îmwe’s ever-so-awesome fight scenes and his skills with a bowcaster, it’s obvious he has a relationship with The Force that has been able to make him formidable on the battlefield despite his blindness.

Another non-cannon thing has officially become cannon. Up until Rogue One, there was no mention of the crystals that actually make a light saber work in the films. Not only do we go deep in the significance of the crystals, but also we find out that the Death Star is powered by it!

Darth Vader Is Back To Being Evil And Scary Again

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There was no greater victim of the prequels than Darth Vader. In an effort to humanize him, he was sort of de-fanged. Now, in Revenge of The Sith, when Anakin takes his turn towards the dark side, it gets a little better, but he was a monster when he was first introduced in A New Hope. Rogue One does its best to bring him back to the terror he was way back when.

Although there are only a few brief scenes with Vader in them, both are memorable. One where the primary villain, Director Krennic goes to Mustafar (great Episode III callback) to speak with Vader where Vader once again shows the puny man who’s boss by putting a little force choke on him. The second moment is when Vader is trying to get back the stolen plans aboard a rebel ship and unleashes hell on them. To that point, we did not see a lightsaber at all in the movie and then Vader comes into a room and easily dispatches about 20 rebels in a hallway. The only lighting in the hallway was his light saber and his theme music playing, once again letting us know who the big bad of Star Wars is.

The Death Star’s Flaw Was Planned All Along

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Galen Erso, the scientist responsible for the Death Star was this film’s version of Oppenheimer, a scientist who created the most devastating weapon ever conceived, and regrets doing so. Galen Erso, wants nothing to do with the Empire and originally walked away from the project but after they murdered his wife, he agreed to work for them.

At the same time, at the end of A New Hope, the simple shooting of a weapon into the exhaust port of the Death Star was enough to destroy the entire battle station. That would have to be the worst engineering ever conceived!

This movie works to fill in the gaps, so that things made more logical sense. It wasn’t absolutely terrible engineering that ensured the Death Star’s failure. It was in fact, brilliant engineering as Galen Erso created the flaw as a means to help the rebellion defeat the Empire. This is far better “prequel storytelling” that was done during other films. It was a means to help elevate the story, and not just put in a “cool Easter Egg.”

CGI Brings Back Some Characters From Episode IV

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Although Rogue One (like The Force Awakens) prided itself in having practical effects so that it can mirror the original series as best it could, they did spend a pretty penny in the digital world in bringing a certain actor literally back from the dead. Peter Cushing, who plays Grand Moff Tarkin has been dead since 1994, however, he gets more screen time after his death than in A New Hope, thanks to the marvels of modern technology.

Let’s be 100% real here, the technology’s isn’t all the way there, though. It was a little distracting as you know it’s not real, but still impressive as far as they’ve come. Building upon the de-aging of Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy and Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War, ILM managing to bring Cushing back from the dead. There is also a similar scene at the end where we see a 19-year-old Princess Leia as she receives the Death Star Plans. In addition to those, unused footage from A New Hope allows various X-Wing Squadrons to join the dogfight in space in a very Forest Gump manner.

The Last 30 Minutes Of The Movie Is Pure Magic!

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This is probably the most exciting battle of a star wars film since Return of the Jedi. The team decides to go against the alliance’s wishes and go retrieve the plans to the Death Star. It’s at first, a stealthy spy mission, that quickly escalated into the opening battle of the galactic civil war. The Alliance quickly sends squads to them for assistance, and then it’s a full blown battle. The battle is intense, exciting, and full of peril. Every character gets a chance to shine and have their “hero” moment before they (SPOILER) die a hero’s death.

It helps close the gap for everything that happens up until the opening crawl of A New Hope. In fact, the battle and the subsequent ending will make you want to immediately want to pop in your DVD/Blue Ray of A New Hope, because that’s how meshed together these films are.

Rogue One was by no means perfect, but it was a great departure from the usual norm in the Star Wars universe and leaves me very hopeful that other Star Wars spin-offs will be just as great.

Grade: 8.5/10

Category: Featured, Film

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