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‘Rogue One:’ The Star Wars Story We Never Thought We Needed

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Saying that we live in a world where “Star Wars” films will be coming out yearly for the next few years is pretty crazy, but alas, the second film in this mega franchise to come out during this time, and eighth entry overall, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” is here and ready to prove what the first of the “Star Wars” anthology films can offer.

Taking place in between “Revenge of the Sith” and “A New Hope,” this film tells the story of a young woman named Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) who is imprisoned due to her crimes against the Empire. She is eventually set free by the rebellion in order to find her missing father and get information about the new weapon being built by the Empire known as the Death Star, which her father was forced to build against his will. Eventually, she discovers that her father has plans for the Death Star hidden and after his death, Jyn leads a group of rowdy rebels in order to secure the plans.

This is a film that arrives with loads of hype, especially after last year’s mega hit, “The Force Awakens,” as well as the return of fan favorite, Darth Vader. Despite being a story none of us might have been too curious to see, it was nonetheless an interesting idea to show a side of the “Star Wars” saga that does still hold great significance to the overall story. And with “Godzilla” (2014) director Gareth Edwards tasked with bringing this project to the big screen, the hype only grew.

So how does this film stand in this galaxy far, far away? Well, there are plenty of positives to hold this movie afloat. With Edwards’ direction, this film certainly does feel massive in scope. Even though this could have remained a much smaller story (which it is at the end when compared to the other “Star Wars” films), Edwards knows how to make the action and battle sequences some of the best in any Star Wars movie.

The film is very action-heavy, all done magnificently with a great combination of intensity, excitement and superb choreography. From the outstanding space battle scenes against the Star Destroyers to the fast-paced hand-to-hand combats against storm troopers to the mind-blowing final battle sequence on the beach, the action is fast and hard-hitting. What really took me by surprise was stunt work and sets present throughout — and how well it was all executed. This winning combination really helped give the reason as to why it’s called Star Wars, as it feels much more like a genuine war film.

“Rogue One” feels the most like a war movie compared to the other entries in the “Star Wars” saga, and this also applies to its tone. Out of all the “Star Wars” films, this one feels the closest to “The Empire Strikes Back” in that it is a rather dark story. It has our characters failing rather epicly throughout and feels meaningful to the story rather than just as a forced way to have an emotional moment. The film also goes deeper into some of the “Star Wars” mythos, in both how some use the force and one particular nagging question fans have had about “A New Hope” for years that I dare not spoil. The film also ends on a note that not only feels very hopeful, but also connects rather perfectly with “A New Hope” and makes everything feel full circle. And finally, the combination of both John Williams’ and Michael Giacchino’s stunning score help give the film its very exciting and grand feel.

However, “Rogue One” certainly suffers from a few problems. Undeniably its biggest issue comes from its characters. Other than Jyn and the droid K-2SO, just about every other new character comes off as unmemorable compared to the rest of the “Star Wars” universe. They lack any real charisma, motivation, development or depth to make them memorable in any way (to the point that I honestly can’t remember a single name). This is a real shame because these characters are very fun to watch in their action scenes, and some seem to have interesting stories to tell, but the film is so devoted to staying as more of an action war film that it shoves aside any chance of character development. This lack of interesting characters sadly does affect the film quite a bit. “Rogue One” only really gets interesting after Jyn’s father dies. Before that, it feels all over the place and a bit unfocused. And what is even worse is that despite the film’s expertly handled war feel, the uninteresting characters take away some level of investment in the action.los-alamos-poster-tall-1536x864

Another flaw is the use of Darth Vader. Vader is easily one of, if not, the greatest villain in cinema history, and his appearance in this film was one of the most hyped aspects. Sadly, though, he is only in two brief scenes that don’t have much to do with the overall story, and what makes it worse is that both of those scenes are really, really good. It’s a shame to see such an iconic character shoved to the side.

One other note: There are two other characters in this film who also appeared in “A New Hope.” But here, they’re portrayed through CGI motion capture due to the respective actors no longer with us or looking the part any more. While the work looks rather good and is a great sign of how far CGI has come, it may prove distracting for some people, especially since one of these two appears constantly throughout the film.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is certainly not a perfect film, lacking the smoother pace and interesting characters from the original “Star Wars” trilogy or “Force Awakens,” but it is also by no means a bad movie. With its intense action, effective set pieces, respect to the Star Wars mythos and engaging plot, “Rogue One” does its job and does it just right, delivering one of the most action-packed entries in this legendary franchise. If you’re a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise, especially for “New Hope” fans, this is a film that will surely take you back far, far away to that galaxy long, long ago.

Mikael, 18, is a freshman at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, where he plans to major in animation. Mikael has made a host of stop-motion and claymation short films, including his award-winning short film “The Tree That Refused To Fall,” which can all be found on his YouTube channel, Cyclops Studios.

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