To most movie fans, Star Wars and prequels go together about as well as ammonia and bleach. With “The Force Awakens” having proven that competent “Star Wars” movies can still be made, Disney decided to take things a step further and attempted to make a sequel that could actually be defined as good. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is set shortly before the original Star Wars movie and explains how the Rebel Alliance obtained the Death Star plans.
The main characters of the film are Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso and Diego Luna’s Rebel Captain Cassian Andor. While they are not boring characters, they feel very similar to characters from previous movies, and are often overshadowed by the supporting cast when it comes to who gets the most memorable scenes and lines. Overall, they simply will not be most people’s favorite ‘Star Wars’ protagonists.
Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen portray a far more interesting duo of characters. In a movie with no Jedi characters, Yen’s character, Chirrut Îmwe, stands out due to his extreme belief in The Force. Wen’s character, Baze Malbus, is the opposite of Îmwe in many ways, but the pair still depend on each other for survival. While the ending of the film makes it seem unlikely, it would really be nice to see these characters show up in another “Star Wars” movie.
However, the movie’s most entertaining character is definetly K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid voiced by Alan Tudyk. His personality makes him very different from any other droids in the “Star Wars” films, and he delivers many of the movie’s best lines.
Many of the other supporting characters feel underdeveloped. Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook would have been more interesting if his reasons for joining, and then betraying, The Empire were talked about more. Ahmed is clearly putting his all into playing the character though, which at least makes him engaging to watch. Forest Whitaker portrays Saw Gerrera, a character who George Lucas created for a ‘Star Wars’ show that was never made. Gerrera is said to have broken ties with the Rebel Alliance due to his extremism, but we never get to hear any more details. Maybe they’re still hoping to make another prequel about him in order to explain it.
On the other hand, there are many small appearances by characters that do work well, such as the cameos by Dr. Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba. Mads Mikkelsen’s character, at the very least, provides a good explanation of why the Death Star has the fatal flaw that will doom it in the original “Star Wars” movie.
On the Dark Side of things, Grand Moff Tarkin is back. With his original actor, the great Peter Cushing, having died 1994, Tarkin is played by Guy Henry with digital editing used to make him look like Cushing. However, Ben Mendelsohn’s new villain, Krennic, is vying for Tarkin’s position of most unpleasant person in the Galaxy. He has a flamboyant cape, approves of unnecessary killing, and seems to be one of the few employees of The Empire to have successfully completed marksmanship training. As their office politics conflict grows, Darth Vader, who is still voiced by James Earl Jones, shows up to deliver a one-liner and remind the audience that he’s the number one villain in “Star Wars.”
What really separates “Rogue One” from any other “Star Wars” movie is the tone. “Rogue One” really focuses on the “War” part of “Star Wars”, making it far darker than the other movies in the series. Not only are the battles on planets intense and grand in scale, but the space battle may be the best one in any ‘Star Wars’ film. The one scene where a light saber gets pulled out feels like it belongs in a horror movie.
At the end of the day, “Rogue One” continues the trend of each “Star Wars” prequel being better than the last. While this does mean that it is the best “Star Wars” prequel, it still has many problems. The characters are not as memorable as the ones in “The Force Awakens,” which will cause many people to prefer “The Force Awakens.” However, if you mainly go to “Star Wars” movies for the action scenes and space battles, then this movie will be a dream come true for you. It’s a movie worth seeing if you love “Star Wars,” but you have to care more about action than characters for it to be your favorite film in the series.