Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Movie Review

The Movie:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the latest installment of the Star Wars saga and tells the story of how the rebel alliance obtained the plans for the infamous Death Star battle station. Directed by Gareth Edwards, the movie features acting performances from Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelson, Jimmy Smits, and James Earl Jones.

The Review:
A few years back, Gareth Edwards made an indie science fiction film called Monsters which lead to him being brought on board for the latest big budget incarnation of Godzilla. After both films proved to be at least reasonably successful, he was hired to create a film that has the potential to be one of the biggest and most ambitious cinematic undertakings of all time. Seriously, no pressure being given the director's chair for the first ever stand alone Star Wars movie that does not follow or focus on the adventures of the Skywalker family. Oh, and it also transitions directly into the original film in the franchise which is known as Episode IV: A New Hope. Yes, Edwards gets to show us the rebellion against the Empire and some very significant events that take place prior to the destruction of the infamous Death Star and he gets to introduce us to some really important and very cool characters along the way. Taking on such a formidable task has to be no easy feat, yet Gareth Edwards absolutely nails it and creates a Star Wars film that feels and looks so perfect yet manages to push the boundaries of what this iconic franchise can offer both visually and from a storytelling standpoint.

A few years back, Felicity Jones transitioned from a regular on British TV shows to starring in feature films including Like Crazy and Hysteria. After earning an Oscar nomination for her role as Stephen Hawking's wife in The Theory of Everything, the rising star and powerful performer was given a shot at immortality as the lead hero in the first ever stand alone Star Wars film. A lot of the reason why this movie works so well is because of her performance as Jyn Erso who goes from an outcast to becoming a central figure and hero of the rebellion. Thanks to Jones' exceptional skills as an actress, Jyn comes across as strong willed, stubborn, and she can hold her own in a fight, yet she also has a level of compassion and empathy that makes her perfect for leading a seemingly impossible mission. Taking on such an intimidating and iconic character was surely not an easy task, yet Jones absolutely nails it and gives fans of the franchise a new hero to root for and a role model for young women around the world.

A few years back, the Walt Disney Company bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise from its creator Mr. George Lucas and set about reinvigorating the premiere brand in global entertainment. Sure, they already had their powerhouse animation division which includes both Disney Animation and Pixar Studios as well as the recent acquisition of the Marvel brand, but this was Star Wars. After unleashing Episode VII: The Force Awakens out into the world, it was now time to work on the first ever stand alone story from the galaxy far, far away and they absolutely nailed it. Rogue One is the Star Wars movie I have been waiting to see forever as it really focuses on the was aspect of the story over all the Jedi and Skywalker family stuff we are used to seeing. I have seen the film described as the Saving Private Ryan of the Star Wars universe although I wouldn't go nearly that far. This is still a fun and flashy action movie with lots of big special effects all wrapped into that distinctive look and feel we are all used to seeing.

Yes, this movie is visually stunning and in ways we have never seen before. While the used universe is still in place, the cinematography is a totally different thing and, on the big screen, it is absolutely stunning. The X-Wing ships have always been one of my favorite things from Star Wars and they look cooler than ever flying around several unique environments all while being just as bad ass as ever. There are some things done in the movie with computer generated imagery that are going to push film making in general forward by leaps and bounds and it all looks very real and very amazing. Of course, I am not able to go into detail here as it involves some important plot twists so I'll just say that overall, Industrial Light and Magic has once again stepped up and put together an impressively innovative masterpiece of visual wizardry that you have to see multiple times to be able to take it all in.

The Verdict:
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a fantastic movie that gets better upon repeat viewings. There is so much going on and it is so fast paced, you will need to see it more than once to take it all in. When this movie was first announced, I felt that it could end up being my favorite out of any in the franchise. While it's much too early to make that sort of claim, it is definitely a movie I would recommend as an absolute must see whether you are a fan of the franchise or not.

Oh, and before I forget, K-2SO is going to be your new favorite robot. Alan Tudyk creates an unforgettable new robot character within a Star Wars universe filled with unforgettable robot characters.

I have not seen the movie in IMAX so not able to give any info on that. I have seen it in 3D and honestly, it really didn't make much of a difference for me.

Update to original review:
Watching the original Star Wars after having seen Rogue One, I have to say that the existence of the new film actually makes the original better, more logical, more dramatic, more intense, more urgent, and more entertaining. The transition from one movie to the next is seamless and really ramps up the urgency of the chase for the Death Star plans. During the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope, I actually got a bit emotional as my thoughts drifted back to the Rogue One team's courage and sacrifice which created the opportunity for Luke and Han's heroics to take place.

So far, I have watched Rogue One six times and have enjoyed it more during each viewing although it will still be a while before I am able to place it properly among the rest of the films. For now, I will give it the title of being the one movie that has made my all time favorite film even more enjoyable than ever before.

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