The Bock’s Office: ‘Rogue One’ the most stellar ‘Star Wars’ story in decades
With much ado lately about a galaxy far, far away, the chances of pleasing a demanding fan base are pretty slim. Well, to speak for the makers of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” never tell them the odds.
If you go…
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 133 minutes
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn and Forest Whitaker
The power of the Galactic Empire has grown dangerously out of control.
Imperial forces have developed unchecked, and despite opposition from the Rebel Alliance, the dictatorship is nearly completely unstoppable in its quest to dominate the galaxy.
Countless families have been ripped apart as a result of the ongoing hostilities, among them those of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose hatred of the tyranny she sees is only matched by her resentment for her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), for electing to work with the Empire.
A stint in prison doesn’t last long for Jyn when she is rescued by the Rebels and is forced to work with them in seeking out Galen to determine his role in creating a weapon capable of unimaginable destruction.
A cynical Jyn is reluctant to join the effort, but the more she gets involved with the mission, the more she realizes she is the key to saving millions of lives.
We couldn’t ask for a better hero here — Jones is near-perfection as someone fighting their entire life, Jyn haunted by a childhood that effectively ended with seeing one parent killed and the other willfully joining the epitome of evil.
Even so, there’s a tenderness to this jaded protagonist, as well as a dreamer’s heart that in spite of all odds trusts that good will eventually triumph.
As with any grand story, the better your characters the more rounded everything around them is, including supporting folks like morally shifty Rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), blind but faithful freedom fighter Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) a reprogrammed droid who’s shaped like with C-3PO but bulkier and upbeat like RD-D2 with greater irreverence.
Forest Whitaker is a welcome sight as Jyn’s former mentor, Saw Gerrera, a soldier in the Clone Wars who’s not long for the world after his years of fighting, with a life support system and prosthetics keeping him going. Looks like you need to be a high-ranking Sith Lord to get decent health care.
Choking someone with the Force also tends to get you what you want.
Yes, there’s a conversation with Darth Vader — and a barely passable computer-generated image of the late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin — but the real villain for this installment is Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic, a power-hungry bureaucrat who doesn’t seem to realize he’s a tiny, expendable cog in a massive machine.
By the way, that’s no moon…
If you don’t know the broad strokes of this bridge between two trilogies, you must have been making an immense effort to ignore one of pop culture’s giants of the past 40 years.
The prequel to the movie that started it all has the unenviable task of trying to stay on the same level as “A New Hope,” and not only do director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy achieve that, they manage to improve on it.
Certain plot points of George Lucas’s original film have always pestered the “Star Wars” community and casual viewers alike, and the weaker elements of the assault on the Empire are stronger as a result.
Edwards and crew must have had fun inserting easter eggs that hearken back to the good old days, and though the aforementioned “appearance” by Cushing is a bust thanks to the uncanny valley, plenty more cameos and callbacks land well.
Bantha milk, anyone?
What’s truly impressive is that this long-discussed project has so much working against it, namely that we already know the ending, or at least the outcome, but the ever-expanding space opera flows freer than in any telling of the past 30-plus years, falling just short of meeting “The Empire Strikes Back” as the best yet in the series.
We still need to have standards, after all.
With no opening title crawl, you might not be sure you’re watching a “Star Wars” movie, yet you can rest assured that “Rogue One” is the “Star Wars” spirit we’ve been looking for, JJ Abrams’ efforts to jump start the franchise notwithstanding.
Simply put, the Force is strong with this one.
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