By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of the brand-new spin off film from the Star Wars Saga. Rogue One is screening at the Phoenix Leicester until the New Year.
Directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whittaker and Ben Mendelsohn; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives exactly year after the Force Awakens.
But how does the spin off match up to the full Star Wars franchise?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set just before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, focusing on the rebel spies who managed to steal the plans for the original Death Star. This group of rebels include Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), veteran Rebel pilot Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his trusty sidekick K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a reprogrammed Imperial droid; and ex-Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Along the way, things don't go as planned when the Death Star's mastermind, Commander Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), begins to show off its destructive potential in order to impress both the Emperor and Lord Vader.
For so long now, nearly 30 years, Star Wars have been wondering why the Death Star had a design flaw that the Rebel Alliance could even think about exploiting. Rogue One now answers that question. As we all know, this film is set just before A New Hope; it perfectly climaxes with the audience ready to go watch the original Star Wars saga.
Let’s go back a step though. We first meet Jyn (Jones) and her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) at their house when the villain of the film, Krennic (Mendelsohn), turns up unwanted. He kills Jyn’s mother and leaves with Galen re-captured to be an engineer for the Imperials. Jyn grows up and becomes a Rebel fighter alongside her cronies Cassian, Bodhi, K-2SO and a martial arts expert monk.
Jones is brilliant as Jyn, but Luna slightly grates as Cassian. They both have complicated pasts which is an interesting trait. In some ways, they're the opposite of Leia and Han, with Jyn the unruly heroine and Cassian the tried-and-true Rebel. Their chemistry is disappointingly meek in comparison to the former. There’s very little small talk and ‘banter’ between the pair with the comedic lines left for Alan Tudyk to perfectly deliver as K-2SO.
The supporting cast of veteran actors Mendelsohn, Mikkelsen, and Whitaker have pivotal roles on both sides of Dark and Light and are definitely at the top of the pile when it comes to performances. Mendelsohn in particular provides a wonderful villainous performance that really gets stuck in your mind long after the credits roll.
The narrative is interesting in parts. It’s quite slow to get off the ground but when it hits the heights in the battle scenes, they are engrossing. When they come and go, you’re longing for the next one as the in-between segments are much more lacklustre. We don’t seem to learn anything new and you just hurry them along. There’s one scene with Vader and Krennic that is good ‘slow’ scene, but other than that, you’re not missing much.
The odds are against the Rebellion of revolutionaries from the start, and this makes for epic battle sequences. The scenes are reminiscent of the final Hunger Games films. The final half an hour is heart-pounding cinema that comes to a head with a glorious final two minutes. Those final 120 seconds is everything I love about Star Wars captured perfectly. That climatic sequence caps off a well-executed piece of the Star Wars tale.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3.5 Stars
Rogue One is out now worldwide and showing at the Phoenix Leicester until early January – certificate 12A