Rogue One (Walt Disney Studios, PG-13)

The ensemble cast work together so amazingly, it brings me back to some of the great group action-adventure movies.

I have the feeling people who had certain qualms with The Force Awakens will be more satisfied with Rogue One. While there are plenty of small references to past installments, the story is much more removed from the rest of the series and doesn’t rely on A New Hope nearly as much for its narrative beats—although hope is definitely one of the film’s major themes.

Rogue One still gravitates toward those concepts, but also steps away from most of the major characters and happenings from the original trilogy. It’s more of a self-contained combination of space-opera, heist movie, and political drama. In a way, it gets right what the prequels attempted, which was to provide more detail into the Star Wars mythos and flesh out the dealings between the Empire and the rebels.

The special effects and space-action sequences are all very well done. In fact, there’s even some CGI work to recreate actors from the original films, making use of some interesting, smaller characters from A New Hope. There was also significant and noticeable use of extremely detailed practical effects and real sets, as opposed to a completely computer-generated world. But the movie really shined in its use of characters to execute a grand adventure plot.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), fugitive and daughter of Death Star designer and imperial slave Galen Erso (Mad Mikkelsen), teams up with veteran rebel crusader Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Together, they conspire to steals plans from the Death Star to find the fatal flaw implanted in it by Galen and defeat the Empire, doing so with the help of a team of colorful, rugged badasses from throughout the galaxy. Among them are blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), laser toting assassin Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), defecting imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and dry and wisecracking, reprogrammed imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). With a band of volunteering rebel pilots, the diverse group defies the rebellion higher-ups judgement and goes rogue on a mission to find Jyn’s father and steal precious data from the Empire. These events decide end up leading to the salvation of the galaxy in what comprises the main Star Wars canon.

For most of my life, I’ve been more of a Star Wars appreciater than a fan, but the choice of scripts, actors, and directors in these newer films are beginning to draw more of my interest in the franchise. This time, director Gareth Edwards is at the helm, having previously done solid sci-fi work in the low-budget Monsters, and so-so work in Godzilla. The ensemble cast work together so amazingly, it brings me back to some of the great group action-adventure movies like Seven Samurai or even Glory, but with a lighter and more humorous spin. (By the way, the movie has an appropriate amount of dry humor.) The political context in which the movie is set allows for a very layered and very compelling story, and it leads to some of the greatest climactic set-pieces in the film series. | Nic Champion

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