“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Directed by Gareth Edwards

THERE WILL BE NO PLOT SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!

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Oh, thank god! The national nightmare that is the George Lucas’ humorless, self-important myth-building has really and truly ended. What “Force Awakens” began, “Rogue One” picks up and carries over the threshold. It is exciting, gorgeous, reverential, and, most importantly, irreverent!

Living as it does, chronologically, after the Vader origin story that is “Sith”, and before the first film, (“A New Hope”), “Rogue One” is unencumbered with the task of reuniting us with all the old characters (a task “Force Awakens” handled quite well). Instead, and much more gleefully for us, “One” reunites us with the innocence of that first film. The sometimes stodgy dialogue comes across as a tribute, and feels like slipping on an old glove…or putting on your sneakers after hours of skating. Characters behave like real people, not symbols. And, when the stakes are at their highest, these characters feel like foot-soldiers, not Gods.

This is mostly thanks to Tony Gilroy’s fabulous script (which, to be fair, is a rewrite from a previous incarnation). When the worst thing I can say about such a highly anticipated action flick is that the setup/second act takes a few minutes too long to get to, you know we’re in good territory. And that ending. Perfect. If only Gilroy had used one iota of this care and skill when he wrote “Jason Bourne”. The fanboys out there will complain that this was supposed to be a much darker film…a straight war film…but I assure you, the humor only makes the stakes seem higher. Any darker and we would have another “Batman v Superman” mess on our hands.

The performances are pretty solid across the board. I find it interesting that the Disney Star Wars franchise is the only studio placing female protagonists in their action flicks. It’s a heavy burden, given its scarcity, but Felicity Jones, while maybe not quite as convincing as Daisy Ridley, handles it with the weight it deserves. Ben Mendelsohn carries the black hat portion of the film quite convincingly. Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed don’t fare quite as well, but in no way hold back the film. And that’s mostly because of the true standouts…the stellar sidekick work of Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang and the vocal stylings of Alan Tudyk. Tudyk, especially, keeps the humor flowing…and it NEVER feels forced.

And then there’s the photography. Greig Fraser’s cinematography and Doug Chiang & Neil Lamont’s production design are simply spectacular. Never trying to reinvent the wheel, they have given us the Star Wars galaxy we were introduced to in the seventies (complete with historically appropriate tech), but just slightly more realistic (understandable, given the advances in effects capabilities). It feels REAL and appropriate (with a couple odd exceptions). And, while I don’t think the film will suffer at all in 2D, the 3D was quite effective and without the migraine-inducing horizontal battles in “Force Awakens”.

Michael Giacchino’s score is..well..adaptive. He was tasked with re-imagining one of the most well known scores in history, so I’ll cut him some slack. Not bad. Not great.

Listen, all we ask for from our most beloved film franchises is to stick to its overriding feel. Lucas decided to abandon that for a decade. But, under Disney’s supervision, we now can rest easy! “Force Awakens” was no fluke. “Rogue One” is a terrific film and all is right with the Force again .

Written on 12/17/2016

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