A long time ago in a galaxy far far away Luke Skywalker helped the rebels take advantage of a design flaw in order to destroy the planet killing weapon known as the Death Star, but how did the rebels get the plans for the Death Star in the first place? That’s the story Lucasfilm, now owned by Disney, is telling in the first Star Wars spinoff film Rogue One, directed by Gareth Edwards.
Rogue One turns the creation of the Death Star into the Star Wars equivalent of the Manhattan Project, with Mads Mikkelson’s character Galen Erso having many similarities to J. Robert Oppenheimer. Both played crucial roles in the creation of weapons of mass destruction and went on to regret their involvement. Unlike Oppenheimer, Galen was forced to design the Death Star and instead of refusing he put in a major weakness that would allow the rebels to destroy it with ease. That is if they can find it.
The rebels catch wind of a cargo pilot who defected from the Empire and has gone to Saw Gerrera with a message from Galen. Saw is a terrorist fighting against the Empire, but was once close to the Erso family and was something of a surrogate father to Galen’s daughter Jyn. Knowing of the connection between Jyn and Saw, the rebels seek out Jyn to convince Saw to help them. While most movie goers probably won’t be familiar with Saw this is not the first time he’s been in a Star Wars property.
Saw Gerrera first appeared in the animated series The Clone Wars making Saw the only character created in the cartoons to be featured in one of the films. There are some notable differences, like the characters eyes which were blue in The Clone Wars. Saw, in the movie, is played by Forrest Whittaker. He’s portrayed as a man without much time left who has a very deep connection to Jyn Erso. His inclusion in the film added so much depth to Jyn who many were worried would be an unlikeable character.
During the advertising of the film, there was a negative reaction to Jyn who fans called cold. Felicity Jones’ character is not cold, but she’s also not perfect. Jyn is unlike the other rebels in the fact that she didn’t choose to fight the Empire. Her parents hated the Empire and she was raised by a terrorist. She never had the luxury of choice, which is why she’s so aimless when the rebels find her. She’s been burned by both sides too many times. Even when she chooses to help the rebellion she never fully agrees with them.
Cassian Andor and K2SO, a reprogrammed imperial droid, are charged with bringing Jyn to Saw. Cassian is a rebel captain who has lost just as much as Jyn. He’s played by Diego Luna who, with his slight build, isn’t what your average leading man looks like, but has more than enough charisma to fit the part. The chemistry between him and Felicity Jones is strong and their both so compelling that they could have easily carried the weight of another trilogy, but that’s not what the spinoffs are about.
Star Wars is known for its droids and Rogue One’s K2SO is a nice addition to that legacy. He’s very different from the likes of R2D2 and C3PO. K2SO is designed for strategy and, as a side effect of his reprogramming, he says “whatever passes through his circuits”. Much of the humour comes from his know it all attitude and general bored demeanour. Though K2SO is not anywhere near as depressed, genre fans may find him reminiscent of Marvin the android sidekick from Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy.
Jyn and Cassian may be the clear leads of the film, but that doesn’t mean the other people aboard Rogue One don’t each have their moment to shine. The story is so well structured that there really isn’t anyone on the main team who shouldn’t be there. Chris Waltz and Tony Gilroy did an excellent job starting the spinoff films off with a bang and making what most will agree is the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy. It’s not without flaws though and being so close to the original Star Wars timeline is probably the biggest problem.
Being set right before the original film, it seems only natural that some of the same characters would appear. Though he’s not the main antagonist of the film, there’s just something cool about seeing Darth Vader again and James Earl Jones reprises his role as the voice of the infamous villain. Vader isn’t the only character to return. Grand Moff Tarkin, originally played in Star Wars episode IV: A New Hope by the late Peter Cushing, makes numerous appearances throughout the movie.
Cushing’s face is digitally placed on another actor, but it never looks quite right especially when he speaks. Mon Mothma, one of the rebel leaders, also returns, but is played by a lookalike rather than a computer generated image and it works so much better. While Moff Tarkin’s odd appearance doesn’t ruin the movie, it is distracting.
Rogue One is a bitter sweet addition to the Star Wars canon that features characters so likeable and well developed that it’s a shame their story only lasts one movie. The main problem facing the film, apart from Moff Tarkin’s face, is its place in the timeline, which is hard for average movie goers to pin down. Once you know where in the timeline you are, sit back and get ready to revisit the golden age of Star Wars.