I have to admit, I didn’t expect to enjoy this film as much as I did. Even when I first watched it in theatres, I kinda disliked it. It just felt different. But overtime, this has become one of my favorite entries in the Star Wars canon. And hopefully this has become the favorite of many others as well.
Rogue One (2016) is a prequel to A New Hope (1977). It kicks off with the same “A long time ago…” title but does not use the normal opening crawl of Star Wars, instead dropping us right onto a farming planet where former Imperial scientist Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelson) is rudely interrupted by Director Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn). Director Krennic wants him to return to creating the superweapon known as the Death Star. Years pass, and now we follow a grown-up Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones), daughter of Galen Erso, being rescued from an Imperial prison by the Rebellion. The Rebellion wants to form an alliance with Jyn to find the plans for the Death Star in order to find a weakness. But time is running out as hope fades, and the Empire's reign grows more powerful.
I’m not sure how Star Wars fans felt when it was announced that a spin off movie was being made, but I was both excited and skeptical at once. Mostly since the only films I saw were the Skywalker Saga up to that point, but once I saw the Star Wars logo, I was intrigued. And thank goodness I saw it, for I was pleasantly surprised. Rogue One (2016) was bold, and it wasn’t afraid to make some hard choices or creative risks. For example, when Rebel spy Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) met with an injured Imperial informant who had Stormtroopers hot on his tail, Andor chose to kill his informant as opposed to having him snitch the information. They dive more into the gray area of the war between the Rebellion and the Empire which I wasn’t prepared for, but this allows for more complexity in Star Wars characters, and in turn, makes them more relatable rather than idealistic at times.
Some of my favorite characters have come from Rogue One (2016) as well, such as the reprogrammed imperial droid, K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) and the blind Jedi-wannabe Chirrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen). Both are used more for comedic relief, yet they are just so loveable! K-2SO uses both statistics and unfiltered truth to get our guts busting every time he is on screen and half the time, acts like a badass while doing so. Chirrut, on the other hand, is basically Daredevil with Rey’s staff, he’s also the closest this movie gets to an actual lightsaber-wielding Jedi, minus Darth Vader. But, I cannot go any further without mentioning the biggest beast in any room, Vader himself; as he steals every scene by just breathing. He even got a beast mode moment at the end when he cut down Rebels with his lightsaber and the Force without breaking a sweat! Fans everywhere, including myself, rejoiced when seeing this as this was the Darth Vader of legend.
This is a much darker story than we are all used to, even darker than The Empire Strikes Back (1980) I’d say. As I said previously, it deals more so with the gray area of the war within the Rebels and Empire; along with the hard choices some Rebels must make. It also goes more into consequences of these hard choices as well. Such as deciding to have a full blown assault on a heavily shielded Imperial information outpost where the Death Star plans are kept, and having it cost almost the entire Rebel fleet just to get it. Which definitely gives more weight to the fleet being nearly nothing in A New Hope (1977) and the desperation of the Rebellion as well; adding more nuance to the story and proving that some creative risks are worth taking. The screenwriters also made the bold narrative choice of killing off the entire main cast too. While many of us were theorizing Jyn would be Rey’s mother before we saw Rogue One (2016), the film didn't turn out that way. In the end, Jyn and Cassian accept their fates and embrace each other like old friends.
It would be easy to assume this was just a straight up cash-grab, Disney milking the Star Wars brand for all its worth, before everyone loses interest. But I think it's safe to say that Rogue One (2016) isn’t the case. It takes some creative risks that might not be liked by everyone, but they feel earned regardless; treating its audience like adults rather than children. Chirrut will always be one of my favorites of the bunch as he is a true believer, and Ben Mendelsohn keeps proving why he is the go-to villain actor of the new millenium. With so many complex badass characters, as well as fantastic character moments, looking at you Vader in the hallway, Rogue One (2016) proves there is room in the Star Wars universe for stories beyond the Skywalker Saga.