Before we get started here, just keep in mind this review will not be professionally written by any stretch of the imagination. If you're looking for an opinion on this film from an official critic, I would advise you to look elsewhere. This is merely one casual fan's two cents on "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." Also be aware that there will undoubtedly be spoilers featured in this review. With that said, let's dive right into talking about the latest installment in the Star Wars cinematic universe!
First and foremost, and I could be wrong on this, but I don't think the hype surrounding "Rogue One" was nearly as big as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." I guess that kind of goes without saying considering Episode VII was the first major Star Wars film since Episode III a decade earlier, and this was merely a spin-off. There was still excitement from fans heading into "Rogue One," of course, but because it went under the radar, that was what I think made it so much better as the level of expectation may not have been nearly as high.
I said to my brother coming out of "Rogue One" that I was beyond shocked that I was not in any way spoiled beforehand. Whereas with "The Force Awakens," I had to avoid social media almost all together the Friday it was released (some bastard spoiled Han Solo's death for me on Facebook, even though it was pretty predictable going in). Once I got out of "Rogue One," I couldn't believe more people weren't talking about that final scene, which may have been one of the coolest things I've seen all year.
But let's backtrack a bit. I will say that it took me some time to get familiar with the plot. I obviously knew this movie was set to take place after the events of Episode III and immediately before Episode IV, explaining the story of the rebels and how they got the plans for the Death Star, though that was about it, admittedly. It really wasn't until halfway through that I understood that Jyn Erso was the daughter of Galen Erso, who was "recruited" by the Galatic Empre once his wife was killed to help build the Death Star.
It also takes time to figure out who the true villain of the film is as well, but I thought Krennic did an excellent job in the role. He comes off as so "political" for lack of a better term, and those kind of characters are always unlikable (especially after the insane election season we just had). I can see why some people would argue that Darth Vader should have been the main antagonist in the film, but newsflash: The movie isn't about him! Personally, I thought he was in the movie for just the right amount of time, but I'll discuss Vader in a bit more detail later on.
As for the rest of the cast of characters, I dug how everyone seemed to have their own identity. Jyn was cool in her own way in that she was able to hold her own against her adversaries and her abilities felt realistic considering she didn't learn the force almost instantly like Rey did in "The Force Awakens." Meanwhile, Captain Andor had some shades of gray when he was going to kill Jyn's father until he thought twice about it. The other two that joined along with them, in addition to the pilot, were easy to rally for and get behind as well. Even K-2SO, who was essentially the "Rogue One" version of C-3PO, was rather blunt in his responses to his comrades and wasn't nearly as defenseless or as weak as C-3PO. He went down like a champ.
Retrieving the Death Star plans is a clear-cut plot, but what I liked most about the story told throughout the film is how it didn't feel like a rehash of anything. It's original and easy to follow. Even someone without much knowledge about the Star Wars universe (such as my dad who I took to see the film) can be entertained by it and not be confused. Granted, being a fan helps, but even if you know nothing about Star Wars, the set designs and everything along those lines is sensational.
One of the biggest criticisms of "The Force Awakens" was that it was more or less a rehash of "A New Hope," which was to be expected. It worked for the seventh installment simply because it was meant to bring back fans of the original trilogy, but "Rogue One" would have died a death had it followed it that same formula. They acknowledged several elements from the prequels as well as the original trilogy, which was wonderful. The movie itself had its own flavor, and for a change, it didn't rely on one hero (Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Rey, etc). Rather, there were several different heroes. In fact, all of them were dead by the end!
In fact, in addition to what I'm going to mention in the next paragraph, that was one of the things I loved most about "Rogue One." Truth be told, it would have made very little sense for any of the primary characters to survive, because if they did, why wouldn't they have been in "A New Hope"? I mean, how often in movies (not just Star Wars) does EVERY main protagonist die? Not often at all. Jyn and Andor won the battle by delivering the plans to the rebels, but died in the end because the planet they were on was destroyed by the Death Star. They were written out as heroes and in the best way possible.
That brings me to the final few minutes of the film, which were beyond badass. Darth Vader makes his presence felt at various points throughout the film, and we see just enough of him to stay satisfied. Immediately after Jyn and Andor die, the plans are successfully delivered to the rebels before their ship is invaded by Vader (no pun intended). As soon as he boards the ship, he whips out his lightsaber and wastes no time in killing every rebel in sight, and there's a handful of them. As someone who did not live through the original trilogy, it was so surreal to see Vader do his thing for the first time (since the character was barely born at the end of Episode III). I literally turned to my brother and said, "Holy shit." Vader was the most intimidating I had ever seen him in this film, fulfulling his full potential as a threatening bad guy. Just wow.
Even cooler is the tie-in with "A New Hope," where we see the plans get delivered to Princess Leia, who looks exactly like Carrie Fisher. Okay, so her face is completely CGI, as well as Grand Moff Tarkin (the actor who played him Peter Cushing died over 20 years ago), and some might be turned off by that, but I thought it looked pretty convincing. Her small cameo was all that was necessary, and her one line ("Hope") is the absolute perfect segue into Episode IV. The movie deserved all the applause it received from the theater I watched it at for that ending sequence alone.
As you could probably tell, I came out of this movie with nothing but good things to say about it. I would have liked to see The Emperor make an appearance, but that's neither here nor there. He is referenced a handful of times, but dammit, Ian McDiarmid is still alive! Use him! At any rate, "Rogue One" gets two thumbs up from yours truly, and unlike "The Force Awakens," I might go out of my way to see it a second time in theaters to appreciate its aesthetic beauty and storyline brilliance. And hot damn, that ending! Check it out as soon as possible, preferably before the Christmas holiday so you can chat about it with friends and family instead of other useless garbage over the holiday dinner.
Should you see this movie? Yes.
SEE ALSO: ""Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Review"