LOS ANGELES, December 17, 2016 — Disney’s Lucasfilms has finally released its latest Star Wars film, the long awaited “Rogue One.” The new film was designed to provide the backstory behind the Rebel Alliance’s daring mission to steal the blueprints for the Death Star, and follows the intrepid Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who bravely battles to defend her father’s apparently controversial decisions, becoming in the process one of the leaders in the rebellion.
In addition to Jones, “Rogue One” brings together several top actors, including Riz Ahmed of Jason Bourne fame, Forest Whitaker (“The Butler”) and Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”). Unfortunately, this new Star Wars film doesn’t take enough time to flesh out the lives and personalities of these characters.
Another potential issue: “Rogue One” does not provide film goers with any truly loveable characters, possibly due to the studio’s decision to not make this film into a separate franchise. An equally likely reason: the body count in this film is appallingly high.
Fortunately, Felicity Jones comes through it all, bringing to life an attractive, down-to-earth heroine which will likely cause at least some Star Wars fans to wonder whether she shares any connections to “The Force Awakens'” heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley).
“Rogue One” fits into the Star Wars chronology between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope.” After learning about the troubled background of the young Jyn’s cruelly persecuted family, the film’s story line turns directly to the battle being fought by Rebel forces to thwart the completion of the Death Star.
Complicating matters in the “Rogue One” story line, Jyn’s staunch supporter, Rebel officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), comes to question the Rebel Alliance’s decisions after he is tasked with killing Jyn’s father, the man responsible for the construction of the Death Star. For her part, as Jyn becomes involved with the Rebel Alliance, she frequently finds herself dwelling on her Jedi-like upbringing.
Jyn and her “Rogue One” team are held together by K-2S0 (versatile Disney voiceover artist Alan Tudyk), an android who tells it like it is, come what may. Jyn and K-2SO start getting close when this pre-C3PO model promises her “I’ll be there for you,” while helpfully observing “the captain said I had to.”
Viewers will also encounter Darth Vader in this film, memorably voiced once again by James Earl Jones. Vader for his part is concerned with the painfully slow construction of the Death Star and eventually confronts Orson Krennic on the issue. Structurally, however, film director Gareth Edwards takes too long to introduce this longtime fan favorite villain, diminishing his effectiveness. One positive note: along with Vader, “Rogue One” also brings back Grand Moff Tarkin (the late Peter Cushing) who comes to life here via the magic of contemporary digital effects.
Similar in tone to the acknowledged masterpiece in the initial Star Wars trilogy, “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980), “Rogue One” does not give viewers many moments of joy. On the other hand, Star Wars aficionados were previously warned by Disney executives, who stated in advance that they intended the new film to be dark, noting it would have the largest body count in the entire series.
Although the plotting and timing in “Rogue One” proves at times to be disappointingly uneven, the film does tie in seamlessly to the beginning scenes of “A New Hope,” finally answering fans’ questions as to how the Death Star plans reached Princess Leia’s ship in that original film from long, long ago.
Star Wars fans next opportunity to re-engage the epic series’ main story line is scheduled to occur on December 15, 2017 with the release of Star Wars Episode VIII.