Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rogue One Is A Classic "Star Wars Story"

The Star Wars franchise was successfully re-launched in 2015 with The Force Awakens, a sequel whose events took place after 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The latest entry in the saga, Rogue One, focuses on a daring group of rebels who are trying to steal the plans for the Empire’s new battle station, the Death Star. Sound familiar? This is the same set of plans that Princess Leia hid inside R2D2 at the beginning of the original Star Wars, released in 1977. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a prequel that can stand on its own, but adds to the unique tapestry of the universe created by George Lucas. You could argue that this just may be the best overall Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.  Please note this review will be largely spoiler free, so you can enjoy the the fantastic Rogue One if you haven't seen it yet.

The movie follows the story of Jyn Urso, who’s the daughter of one of the scientists working on the Death Star project. Jyn's father, Galen, has sent out a secret message to the rebels. He wants to stop the Empire, and has information that can help destroy the Death Star. The rebels want Jyn’s help in locating him. So she and a ragtag band of heroes try to find a way to rescue Galen and gather this important intel regarding the Empire’s ultimate weapon before it’s too late. Along the way, we’re treated to an exciting, action-packed tale that features some intriguing new characters, as well as appearances by some long-time favorites in the series, both heroes & villains. There are also some visual nods & musical references to past entries in the saga. Kudos here to Michael Giacchino’s music, which quotes John Williams' classic themes throughout the movie, but is also an evocative & original score in its own right.

Director Gareth Edwards (who also helmed the well-done 2014 Godzilla reboot) clearly loves playing in George Lucas’ sandbox; the film is visually dazzling, and features several memorable & kinetic action sequences. It not only looks like, but also feels like a Star Wars film, and has that same sense of wonder & excitement that personified the original trilogy. The performances are strong, especially Felicity Jones as Jyn, Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, a kick ass warrior who helps Jyn in her quest, and Alan Tudyk as the voice of K-2S0, a somewhat cranky but extremely helpful droid. Mads Mikkelsen is also very good as Galen. The relationship between father & daughter is one of the threads that holds Rogue One’s story together, much as themes regarding parents & their children permeate some other films in the series. It's also nice to see another intelligent, strong & resourceful female character take center stage in the saga, following in the tradition of Princess Leia from the original trilogy, and Rey from The Force Awakens.

Rogue One is a thrilling adventure that will resonate most strongly to Star Wars fans, but can also be enjoyed as a standalone science-fiction film. The story has a slightly darker tone than The Force Awakens, but there are some welcome moments of humor amid the action & excitement. It’s kind of a Dirty Dozen (or The Guns of Navarone, if you prefer) style "secret mission" story set in the Star Wars universe. Director Edwards and his cast & crew have done a remarkable job capturing the essence of Star Wars, but also creating their own spin on the "Lucas-verse." I’m not going to detail the cameos & references featured in the film, as I promised to be spoiler-free, but I will say this; Rogue One ends where classic Star Wars begins. I will note that there is some use of CGI to recreate a couple of characters that some viewers & critics have found a bit off-putting, but it does not hurt the film’s overall effectiveness. Rogue One is now in theaters; here’s a link to the trailer:

I can't close this week's post without noting the recent passing of Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, among her many other roles. RIP, Carrie. Thanks for being one of the toughest, sassiest & smartest heroines in the universe. This is also the final Eclectic Avenue entry for 2016. Wishing all my readers & their families & friends a Happy New Year! Thanks for reading!

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