Rogue One (2016)
After watching Rogue One earlier today, I was suitably impressed. Once again Disney have used all the knowledge they've amassed from successfully running major franchises and applied it here, resulting in a finely tuned and polished entry into the Star Wars pantheon. The concept of standalone movies released in-between instalments of the classic story has now proven viable opens up a wealth of possibilities. Rogue One works well narratively and provides the spectacle that fans expect from the series. The continuity and attention to detail is outstanding continuously keeping viewers on their toes. Furthermore, the story itself is credible, dovetailing nicely into the lore.
One of the movies greatest assets is its depiction of a galaxy at war. A point that sometimes gets lost in the original trilogy. The rebel alliance is shown as a less than perfect organisation with fragile alliances and rogue factions. Our protagonists are also flawed, some of whom have done questionable things in the name of their cause. It is these themes that bring a greater degree of maturity to Rogue One. The dark tone is more in keeping with that of The Empire Strikes Back, rather than A New Hope.
Technically the movie is a triumph, sporting the quality of computer effects one expects from the franchise. The dogfights in space and the ground assault on the Scarif are suitably impressive. ILM’s loving recreation of Peter Cushing is fascinating to see and also raises some interesting questions regarding the future use of digital actors. The film also showcases several ideas that were previously considered but not used, such as Darth Vader’s bacta chamber. However it is the sense of continuity in the production design and casting that is most striking; Rogue One looks and feels like a seventies production.
Despite a storyline that paves the ways for A New Hope, Rogue One manages to avoid being boxed in by its narrative and takes some interesting turns along the way. The casting works well offering a diverse team of protagonist, reflecting the inter-species nature of the Rebel Alliance. The Empire remains a haven for British character actors with seventies sideburns and as the story unfolds, takes on a credibly dark tone. Rogue One is essentially a war movie and like all good examples of the genre, does not explore the subject matter in binary terms.
Apparently director Gareth Edwards original cut of the movie was a little too dark and Disney decided to shoot additional material and retool the movies ending. Yet the final edit does not necessarily bear all the hallmarks of post-production tinkering. Perhaps Darth Vader’s personal intervention to retrieve the stolen plans at the movies climax is a little contrived but appears to have been well received by fans. The films conclusion is both credible and appropriate. Opting for a more “happily ever after” tone would have diminished the themes that Rogue One explores during its two hour plus running time.
Personally I feel that the bi-yearly standalone movies that Disney has planned offer a lot more scope than the continuation of the classic story. Although I’m curious to know the fate of Luke Skywalker, that tale doesn’t seem to offer as many possibilities. I am a firm believer in the concept that not every movie needs sequel and am looking forward to the forthcoming ad-hoc stories regarding various characters from the Star Wars pantheon. If future films maintain the standard set by Rogue One then fans certainly have nothing to fear and I’m sure Disney will continue to enjoy the commercial success.