Review: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 14 December 2016



ROGUE ONE follows a team of rebel warriors consists of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) alongside droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) as well as Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) on a rogue mission to steal the plans for the Death Star.

REVIEW: Although last year's STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS did help revitalise the iconic franchise to the point it has successfully overtaken James Cameron's AVATAR to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time in the US box office history, the seventh instalment was mostly criticised for taking the EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE-like nostalgic route a bit too far.

By contrast, Disney and Lucasfilm's first attempt at expanding the STAR WARS universe by launching a spinoff is a different story altogether. Here, ROGUE ONE is shaped into an interesting combination of two different genres: war and heist movies. Even the signature text crawl that typically opens a STAR WARS movie is noticeably absent here. And most of all, it was a bold yet refreshing change of pace to see the Rebel Alliance squad take centre stage this time around. But for all the changes that ROGUE ONE tries to bring here, not everything works out as great as I thought.

Let's start off with the direction. Following MONSTERS (2010) and GODZILLA (2014), this is easily the biggest and most ambitious project Gareth Edwards has ever handled. One thing for sure, he definitely knows his way around with big special effects moments and staging effective action scenes. Whether it was a WWII-like ground assault on the beach planet of Scarif or the epic space battle complete with Edwards and cinematographer Greig Fraser's unique camera angles shot either from the Rebel pilot's or the X-Wing's point-of-view, ROGUE ONE is an immersive visual spectacle worth experiencing on the biggest screen possible. Then, in the rare absence of John Williams for not composing a STAR WARS movie for the first time ever, Michael Giacchino's score still manage to bring ROGUE ONE an auditory sense of rousing and epic feel.


The ensemble cast, in the meantime, is decent enough. The baby-faced Felicity Jones is fetching as the rebellious and vengeful Jyn Erso, even though her character doesn't exactly reach the same level of acting prowess seen in Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia and Daisy Ridley's Rey. Diego Luna is both charismatic and dashing as the steadfast Captain Cassian Andor, while Riz Ahmed brings an eccentric charm to his Rebel-siding Imperial pilot character as Bodhi Rook. As for Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker and Jiang Wen, all three of them are reasonably adequate with their respective roles as Galen Erso, Saw Gerrera and Baze Malbus. While it's nice to see Darth Vader (again voiced by the great James Earl Jones) making a comeback in ROGUE ONE with his memorable cameo appearance, Ben Mendelsohn deserves an equal praise for appearing in this movie's major villain role as the remorseless and wicked Imperial special weapons director Orson Krennic.

But of all the characters of old and new featured in this movie, it was Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk who both truly steal the show as Chirrut Îmwe and K-2SO. For Yen, he delivers an engaging presence as usual, notably during a scene-stealing moment where he single-handedly defeated a small army of Stormtroopers with his nifty staff-fighting skill. It was also one of the best choreographed and most thrilling fight scenes ever seen in a STAR WARS movie since Ray Park's Darth Maul's three-way lightsaber duel against Liam Neeson's Qui-Gon Jinn and Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi in EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE. On top of that, he even gets the single best, yet hilarious line in the movie. Finally, joining the roster of memorable droid characters including C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8, Alan Tudyk gives a likeable voice performance as the wisecracking robot K-2SO.


Now, for the plot. As a war movie, ROGUE ONE is surprisingly bloodless even for a PG-13 rated blockbuster. Not to mention Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy's screenplay undermines one of the most important elements for such genre: depicting the suffering and the ugly consequences of war. The movie also lacks a strong emotional hook to the point it's hard to make me feel moved with most of the characters' inevitable death.

As for the heist element where Jyn and his team try to steal the plans for the Death Star, I was expecting the story is given the similar vibe of a great heist movie that emphasised on the elaborate and sophisticated planning. Instead, it was executed in a rather straightforward manner. Frankly, there is nothing wrong with opting for such route but then again, why not aim a few notches above if this movie clearly wants to be bold and different?

Overall, ROGUE ONE is a good attempt, if not entirely successful in bringing something fresh to a STAR WARS movie. And one last thing, I love how Edwards choose to end his movie perfectly that paved way to EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE.

As the first standalone movie in the STAR WARS saga, ROGUE ONE packs a visual wallop in terms of action and special effects but the movie doesn't exactly fulfil its emotional aura as it should be.

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