Every Star Wars film has a sort of imperfect charm to it. Even when they’re terrible you can still occasionally get lost in them. But when they’re good? They can be some of the most exciting and dazzling cinema you’ll find. It boils down to some very simple aspects. We want to cheer the good guys and boo the bad guys. Rogue One manages that amazingly well whilst also giving us moments to question the Rebels and woop as the Empire do some despicable but very cool looking things.
For the first time in any of the films I felt as though the Empire was a terrifying presence. Rather than be told that they’re an oppressive and terrifying blight on the galaxy we actually see it. They’re arrogance and proclivity for heinous acts is astounding. That doesn’t mean to say that our heroes are a bunch of goody two-shoes. The story is very brave in avoiding making them holier than thou. We know who the good guys are, so when they perform acts that in our current world would be called terrorism we still support them. It’s an odd feeling but adds some meat to proceedings.
Much like in a Western, our heroes aren’t given deep backstories. It’s their interactions with their world and each other that draws us in and care about them. In this respect Rogue One is a triumph. There’s also a great undercurrent of political backstabbing and greed. A wonderfully cruel Krennic, a sometimes amazing and sometimes odd Tarkin, and a truly intimidating Vader give us a very different look at the Empire and its machinations.
The action, especially on the ground, feels like a war. Despite the perfectly placed grit it’s always very clear what’s going on as battles impact one another. There’s a grit not seen in the other films. That grit may not transfer to the space battles but they bring their own spectacle as the most iconic designs of the franchise fight it out.
Rogue One gets so many things right that I can forgive it’s jarring need cram fan-service in. Some of it makes a huge galaxy seem much smaller. Still, you can’t help but smile a lot of the time.
Starting slowly, the film gets stronger as it moves along, culminating in some of the most thrilling sequences I’ve seen in a cinema. Rogue One gives me things I’ve longed to see for as long as I can remember, with every opportunity for a money shot taken. Director Edwards is a massive Star Wars fan and it shows. ’77 design with ’16 tech? You got it.
It was a big risk moving outside of the Skywalker saga. Rogue One proves it was a risk worth taking.