Set during the Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rogue One is about a group of rebels who try to recover the plans for the Death Star which reveal a major strategic weakness. Potential spoilers are ahead.
Rogue One is a Star Wars film for the fans as it would not be a good entry point for anyone wishing to get into the series. Even though the film does try to distance itself from the original franchise with the lack of the classic scrolling title credits, a differently coloured logo, and (to an extent) a darker plot there’s a lot of harking back to the past of the Star Wars franchise, which only the fans would really get behind. Returning characters, mentioning of past heroes and the way the story perfectly rounds everything up creates a really positive buzz, for the fans Rogue One is a treat. The Force Awakens, like Rogue One, also created a feeling of nostalgia but the feeling of familiarity was too great as it felt like a rehash of A New Hope. Rogue One, though familiar in places with the basic narrative structure, doesn’t feel quite so overly familiar but we are still safe in the knowledge that we are in the Star Wars Universe.
The feeling that the film was made for the fans can easily be used as criticism against the film because every film should work as a standalone feature. Anyone looking for an entry point should never start with Rogue One (start with the order they were made or the order of the story, none of this ‘machete’ nonsense) because the way the film ties everything up creates a sort of excitement that will only be felt by fans of the series. Outside of the fan base the film may work as a standalone film (it certainly does in the Star Wars universe) as there’s interesting discussions about amoral nature of the rebel alliance in their fight against the Evil Empire.
The newer characters are good enough to ensure that you do care about them, and the diverse cast is a positive but the film won’t win any acting awards. Felicity Jones is good but there isn’t too much to get her teeth into and the talents of Mads Mikkelsen are slightly wasted. The rest of the cast do what is needed with their likeable enough characters but the plaudits, however, go to Ben Mendelsohn who plays the ambitious and brutal Director Orson Krennic. His ambition to be in a position of power and build this ultimate super weapon in order to impress both Darth Vader and Emperor makes him seem like a man desperate for his efforts to be recognized, making him dangerous to the rebels as there is no limit to his brutality. Krennic has the ambition to cause great destruction, and Mendelsohn, being, the great actor he is, dominates the screen.
Some characters make a unique appearance, as the commander of the Death Star in The New Hope it shouldn’t be a surprise that Tarkin makes an appearance, which actually looks like the original Tarkin. Considering Peter Cushing has been dead for some time it seems slightly bizarre that this would be the case (despite similar things happening before in films like Gladiator). What Disney and the special effects wizards at Industrial Light & Magic did was to digitally create Peter Cushing’s General Tarkin in immense and impressive detail. There have been some naysayers but whilst it can quite clearly be seen as a GCI character it works the more you become accustomed to it. Darth Vader also makes a return (as seen in the trailers) and he probably gets not only one the finest moments in the film but one of the finest moments in the entire series.
There’s perhaps a little too many moments where a character arrives at the most convenient time possible to save another and some of the writing is little flimsy, but Rogue One will delight most Star Wars fans everywhere.