Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, rated PG-13
This is the first installment in the Star Wars: Anthology series. This film is set anywhere from a few weeks to a few days before Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). It is directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), and is visually stunning. The script is written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. The music by Michael Giacchino is excellent, and it’s the first Star Wars film not to be scored by the now 84-year old John Williams. The film had an estimated budget of $200 million.
This film is perhaps the least “kid friendly” of the Star Wars films, being a war film at its core, featuring an outstanding battle in the final part of the film. On the other hand, the film includes some excellent humor, primarily provided by the sure to be a crowd favorite K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Christians will also notice that the “Force” is emphasized more in this film, particularly by Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind, but still effective warrior-priest. Several times throughout the film he offers the prayer-like Jedi incantation “I am the Force, the Force is with me”.
Fans of Star Wars will enjoy the many homages to previous films and characters. For example, the planet on which Jyn Erso (Oscar nominee Felicity Jones) is retrieved from the Empire early in the film by the rebel alliance is called Wobani, an anagram for Obi-Wan. In addition, R2D2 and C3P0 have a brief cameo making Anthony Daniels the only actor to appear in all the Star Wars movies so far. And longtime Star Wars fans will be thrilled with a few powerful appearances from Darth Vader, voiced by James Earl Jones. We both thought we caught a glimpse of Chewbacca during the battle scene.
The film opens with Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), living in a remote area with his wife and young daughter Jyn. Galen was one of the Empire’s star (pun-intended) weapons designers, before retiring to a life of farming. Now, his former boss, Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) has come for him, needing his help to finish the project they had begun together, the Death Star, a weapon intended to be able to destroy an entire planet. SPOILER ALERT – The young Jyn loses her father and mother, and is largely on her own, though we briefly see Saw Gerrera (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) check in on her to see that she is safe.
We next see Jyn on Wobani, one of the Empire’s prison planets. She is unexpectedly freed by a team of Rebel Alliance agents led by Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). The Rebels have become aware of Jyn’s father’s involvement in the Death Star project and hope that Jyn will be able to help them locate him and secure the plans for the weapon. Jyn doesn’t believe that her father would willingly aid the Empire, but she has not seen him since she was a small girl.
The film shows us that there are different factions in the Rebel Alliance. Jyn eventually begins to embrace the Rebel’s cause and recruits a small band of misfits who feel the same as her. In addition to Andor, Imwe and K-2SO, there is Imwe’s best friend, the marksman Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and former Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Golden Globe nominee for The Night Of, Riz Ahmed).
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The story is relatively easy to follow, the visuals are stunning, we are introduced to some new characters and there are several references to previous Star Wars films. It is still basically a good vs. evil story. Parents need to be aware of the intense battle scenes and the prayer-like incantations by Chirrut Imwe.