Lucasfilm and Disney have a lot riding on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In fact, I’ll argue that this film is the one that will justify or not the $4.05 billion dollar price tag for acquiring Lucasfilm that Disney spent. It’s one thing to buy Star Wars but at that price, you need to prove the franchise will thrive outside the main saga films.
Disney needed to prove that Star Wars is more than just Luke Skywalker and that they can expand beyond the familiar into interesting territory. Fortunately for us Rogue One delivers on that promise.
Rogue One is set very much in the galaxy far, far away that we’re all familiar with but from a different viewpoint. Unlike every other previous major Star Wars film where the characters are these mythic archetypes, this film relies on characters that are the grunts or boots-on-the-ground. These aren’t the characters who are larger than life but the very real people with problems who are the ones that get things done without getting a medal at the end of the film. That perspective the film gets a very different feel.
Structurally, the film is designed to lead up to one specific event: the stealing of the Death Star plans. This gives us a very different pacing for a Star Wars movie which starts up fairly slow, and incrementally starts to move faster as the runtime wears on. In some ways it reminds me more of a film along the lines of The Great Escape, which is a slow build to a climax you know is coming.
The cameos and easter eggs are plentiful here, too. If you’ve been reading my articles leading up to the release of this film, then you know at least one other villain from the original trilogy other than Darth Vader makes an appearance in this film. Hats off to the visual effects team, because that character has a few scenes and they were almost perfect.
There are some other cameos that show up which border on just a bit too much nostalgia, but I tend to enjoy this kind of connective tissue in a meta-narrative franchise. There was even one allusion to the fate of a character from the Star Wars Rebels television series, which is a great nod to those of us who pay attention to the larger story. It was fairly blink and you miss it but fans like me will appreciate it.
If there is a criticism that I would make with the movie it is a very minor one. Up to this point in every Star Wars film our heroes travel from planet to planet and the audience follows along pretty well. Rogue One added the locations in the bottom corner of the screen which was very strange to see in a Star Wars movie. This was basically the only thing that took me out of the story and I feel was wholly unnecessary.
Here’s the trailer: