The first stand-alone movie in the Star Wars franchise – that is, the first movie not to feature familiar characters such as Obi-Wan, Han Solo, Chewbacca or Luke Skywalker and his relatives – Rogue One is set just before the events of the original movie that got us hooked into the Star Wars universe in the first place, A New Hope.
If you’ve ever wondered how Princess Leia got hold of the plans for the Death Star or who came up with the idea of a space station that could destroy entire planets, director Gareth Edwards and his team supply the answers in this side story that introduces a host of new characters (as well as giving us glimpses of some old ones). Front and centre is Jyn Erso (Jones), the tough daughter of scientist Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), who just happens to be the bright spark coerced by the Empire to make their shiny new, and very lethal, battle station.
For the first hour or so, Jyn’s backstory is set up – including a visit to volatile rebel Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker, annoyingly chewing the scenery), who raised Jyn after her father was taken away – and we meet rebels such as Luna’s Cassian Andor, his droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) who provides the comic relief, a blind warrior who believes in the Force (Donnie Yen) and his more practical pal (Jiang Wen). We also get to see what the bad guys are up to, including that familiar black-cloak-and-helmet wearing Sith lord, and the movie’s main villain, white-suited project manager Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn), who is in charge of the new Death Star.
While fans will love the nods to Star Wars mythology that are scattered throughout, those less familiar with the franchise who aren’t playing spot-the-reference may find the pace of the first half a little slow as alliances are forged, plans are made, new locations are visited (including the Jedha moon) and a CGI character is revealed whose odd animated face is both distracting and a little disturbing.
Luckily, when the promised action comes in the third act, it’s a five-star spectacular blast of excitement that lets you forgive and forget the three-star exposition that went before it. As our rag tag bunch of reluctant heroes go to steal the infamous Death Star plans amidst a gun battle that wouldn’t look out of place in a Pacific-set World War II movie, Edwards and his skilled special effects team throw everything at the screen and it is exceptional stuff.
Explosions, blaster fire, stormtroopers and some impressive (and recognisable) huge scale hardware fills the screen as Jyn and her crew go about their mission. It’s just what we’ve been waiting for, and while the movie may have something of a shaky start, by the end we have another well-crafted, sometimes dark, ultimately fulfilling addition to the Star Wars canon.
Is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
The characters are often in danger which may upset very young children.
Young viewers may find Darth Vader scary.
In one scene a character is tortured by a slimy looking creature with tentacles which may upset younger viewers.
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