This is the Star Wars prequel George Lucas should have made years ago. Star Wars: Rogue One is a prequel that takes place before the events of A New Hope (1977), also known simply as the first Star Wars movie. There is a bigger picture unfolding in another part of the galaxy, which we are fully aware, but catch only glimpses of familiar characters, creatures and verbal references; a side story away from the main action. In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker leads a band of rebel alliance against the Imperial Forces and sets off a detonation device in the heart of the Death Star. The rebel alliance had already stolen plans revealing the Achilles heel in the Death Star but the backstory of how they acquired those plans was never revealed. Rogue One provides the backstory.
Critical consensus among fans was that the prequel trilogy failed on many levels. For me, it felt like an infomercial with characters dodging assembly-line threats and a pod race demonstrating the excitement of a video game, and more characters than I could keep track of… or collect when sold in stores. Rogue One spends more time developing characters than creating them, which is half the magic of the franchise now in the hands of The Walt Disney Company. Utilizing both puppetry and mechanics to blend in with the production values of A New Hope, the Star Wars franchise will continue to succeed in good hands.
Perfectly cast, Felicity Jones adds to the Disney product line of strong, heroic females. The actress was reportedly the highest-paid of the cast, more than $1,000,000, and contracted to appear in one additional Star Wars film. Two noticeable difference between this and the official “episodes” is the lack of music composed by John Williams and the scrolling recap of the prior chapter. Neither of this take away the fun and enjoyment of Rogue One.
If there was any flaw to Rogue One it is the inevitable outcome: you know good will prevail and that the rebel alliance will ultimately get their hands on the plans to the Death Star. But the fate of our heroes will not be kind. Which answers the question fans have been asking: can Disney create a financially successful Star Wars movie without Skywalker, Yoda or Jedi Knights? Box office this opening weekend indicates strong returns for the Mouse House.
On an amusing sidetone, digital wizardry brings Peter Cushing back from the dead. Purists who cry sacrilege need only be reminded of Humphrey Bogart in Tales from the Crypt, John Wayne in those Coca Cola commercials and JFK in Forest Gump. An actor was hired to mimic Cushing’s voice but the mannerisms are a bit jagged and give away the obvious digital complex. A quick eye and a review of the first Star Wars movie before rushing out to the theater will provide you some additional fun… recognizing the minor characters who play a larger role in the later entries.
Closing note about Darth Vader. Always considered one of the ten best villains in cinematic history, the man in black not only plays a role on the sidelines but steals the movie in a great scene only Vader could steal. My only gripe was James Earl Jones who reprises the voice but should have delivered his lines a bit slower to emphasize the menace and eliminate much of his aged, raspy voice that was clearly evident. But don’t worry about how he sounds in the movie… your children will love this movie.