Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

img_6545Gareth Edwards’s Rogue One (B) is the Star Wars film that puts its titular wars front and center with a Dirty Dozen style assemblage of warriors embarking on a strategic mission. This first standalone film outside the typical trilogy format is graced with whiz-bang visuals and bursts of muscular action, some of it a little too self-conscious as if the special effects folks came up with too many of their own ideas. The actors don’t embarrass themselves as they did in the prequel trilogy (I suppose this counts as a prequel too, just really close to the action of the original Episode IV), but they sure don’t stand out much in this crowd. Felicity Jones is fairly one-note as the understated leader of a ragtag offshoot of the Rebel Alliance in search of the original Death Star plans and the built-in vulnerability in the planet-destroying space station. Diego Luna is so subtle, you might forget he’s normally a pretty charismatic screen presence. Other actors are wasted, with only Mads Mikkelsen getting a plum part as a conflicted Imperial engineer. It’s not a great sign when the new droid – an acerbic malcontent named K-2S0 voiced by Alan Tudyk – is the primary scene-stealer. Furthermore, resurrecting the late Peter Cushing through CGI as one of the primary villains gives a dead-eyed Polar Express character effect. The film is markedly better in the second of its two hours and introduces some pretty spectacular stunts and set-pieces. It feels like a lived-in universe but doesn’t give much of the character-based humor so emblematic in the original epics or even in last year’s Force Awakens. After three films now involving the Death Star (and Force‘s Starkiller Base), this franchise could benefit from a new charged object.

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