The announcement of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody. One of the world’s biggest entertainment conglomerates acquired the rights to one of the most beloved franchises of all time, so spin-offs and endless sequels are to be expected.
Disney proved that the property is in capable hands with “The Force Awakens,” but many withheld their judgment about whether a major standalone Star Wars release could work without the characters that fans had come to love over the years.
Was “Rogue One” nothing but a mindless money grab, or could the studio really pull off adding a meaningful story to the Star Wars universe? The answer is mostly yes, even if “Rogue One” isn’t as consistent as the franchise’s best films.
“Rogue One” tells the story of the Rebels who stole the plans for the Death Star, setting into motion the events of the original “Star Wars.” Situated between episodes three and four of the overarching Star Wars story, it’s a sci-fi thriller that generally feels like a good fit with the rest of the franchise.
“Rogue One” finds tremendous ways to be surprising despite the challenge of creating stakes in a prequel when the audience already knows the broader outcome. Unfortunately, this happens at the expense of any significant development for the slew of characters that the movie introduces. Most of their personalities feel interchangeable, as if the standalone nature of the movie left the writers disinterested in creating complex heroes.
This is disappointing when comparing the heart of other Star Wars characters. While their characters may be written rather generically, the actors do the best they can with the material they’re given. Felicity Jones takes the lead as Jyn Erso, a confident young woman who was raised by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) after her father was taken by The Empire to develop weapons for them. Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor, who joins Jyn on mission to find her father and the death star plans.
They are joined by Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and a rag-tag group of rebels on their mission into the heart of Imperial territory. It’s an exciting batch of actors that cements Star Wars as one of the most diversely cast properties in the blockbuster game right now. Every performance is at the very least competent, and most of them are excellent.
In addition to the top-notch actors, the technical aspects of “Rogue One” help it look and feel like a pure-bred Star Wars movie, with lasers and droids abound. Alan Tudyk provides brilliant comic relief as a reprogrammed Imperial droid, which also helps ease the movie’s slightly tiresome running time.
“Rogue One” feels like quite an ordeal by the time it nears its climax, but its final sequence is reaches the heights of the best Star Wars films. Disney took a gamble, and it has already paid off enormously in both box office returns and fan approval. “Rogue One” has likely secured a beloved place in the timeless Star Wars canon, and for the most part, it deserves it.