Welcome to the inaugural movie review column by mother and son team, Jennifer and Jacob Hartley. Get the scoop on blockbuster movies from a 13-year-old kid critic’s eyes, and those of his mom, a slightly older kid.
You could almost be forgiven for cynically wondering if the current model of quickly pumping out Star Wars movies is just another cash grab by Hollywood types to keep the franchise alive, to attract a new generation to Star Wars and make buckets of cash on merchandise. You could almost be forgiven. However, by the time the end credits roll in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, your cynicism will have been blasted away.
If you are a Star Wars fan, then you know there are many questions that have always remained unanswered and there are plot gaps everywhere from movie to movie. Most of Rogue One occurs between Episode III, Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV, A New Hope and it answers one of the biggest mysteries from Episode IV. Without spoiling the plot, what is uncovered by Rogue One is how the Death Star plans ended up into Princess Leia’s hands. However, that is actually simplifying things because Rogue One is much richer and more complex in content than recent Star Wars flicks.
In fact, right from the start, you get the sense this is a different type of Star Wars movie. The iconic John Williams theme that always sets the tone is absent, the usual contextual text crawl up the screen is missing. “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away” is the one clue to reassure you that you are in for a visual thrill ride.
While last year’s The Force Awakens was upbeat (minus the loss of Han Solo of course), with a light good vs evil plot and an absolute joy to watch with all the characters we have come to love mixed with new equally lovable characters (i.e. Rey and Finn), Rogue One, is darker, with the lines of good vs evil slightly blurred with political nuance and intrigue, even within the Rebellion. There are other thought-provoking elements making this addition to the Star Wars family more intense but equally satisfying in every way.
(Editor's note: There are some spoilers below so please be forewarned.)
The story opens with the protagonist, Jyn Erso, as a little girl watching her mother get killed and her father taken away by the Empire to work on an engineering weapon of mass destruction (i.e Death Star) This may be hard for kids to watch. She is rescued and raised by Forest Whitaker’s character, Saw Gerrera, a good guy who goes rogue from the Rebellion (not the reason for the title).
Fast forward about 15 years and Jyn is a young woman and the Rebellion wants to find her to get to her dad. The problem is she hasn’t seen him since she was a child and has no idea where he is and is cynical as the day is long. She makes a deal with Rebellion leaders to try and find him but the journey to find him is complicated and filled with twists in the road. In a Road to Damascus kind of conversion, Jyn becomes the heroine of the story.
There are lots of new faces in the movie. Felicity Jones plays protagonist Jyn Erso, Diego Luna is her Rebellion at-times partner at-times antagonist Cassian Andor. Riz Ahmed plays Bodhi Rook, the pilot who defects from the Empire to help the Rebellion. Donnie Yen is Chirrut Imwe, who, while not a Jedi, is strong with the Force and offers insight and assistance, along with Baze Malbus, played by blaster-wielding Wen Jiang who takes care of Imwe. Forest Whitaker takes on the role of Saw Gerrero and Mades Mikkelsen is Jyn’s father, Galen Erso.
Ben Mendelson plays the evil Empire agent Orson Krennic who coerces Erso to work for the Empire.
There are also familiar faces. Die-hard fans will recognize the X-Wing fighters from the Episode IV. Peter Cushing is digitally resurrected from the dead to play Grand Moff Tarkin and it is absolutely brilliant but eerie at the same time. Darth Vader makes a few appearances of course, and Leia at the very end makes a cameo in an opener to Episode IV.
One of the delights of the movie (for kids and adults alike) is the droid, K2SO who is a reprogrammed Empire droid. He provides comic relief and some sentiment, very undroidlike, but it is effective.
As you would expect, the special effects were outstanding, the action was amazing, particularly during the last 45 minutes of the movie, which is phenomenal for a number of reasons, including the set-up to Episode IV.
Kids will love it, adults will love it. While some of the themes are more adult-friendly and some kids may complain that it takes a long time to get into the action, once the movie does, it is everything every Star Wars fan of any age could want.
Do not wait for DVD. Catch it in the theatres.