The first Star Wars spin off is with us and the question everyone has is can a story exist outside of the episodic cannon and still fit in? Happy to report that for it is a resounding yes to answer that question. Gareth Edwards has delivered a Star Wars movie, a war movie and a story of hope that I would say ticks all Star Wars fans boxes and much more.
Rogue One nestles itself inbewtsween Episodes 3 and 4 telling the tale of the rebel attempt to capture the plans for the Death Star led by the daughter of one of its inventors. The team is assembled with an eclectic mix of defectors, hardened soldiers, believers in the mythical Force and skeptics. Also in the mix (it wouldn't be a Star Wars story without one ) a loveable and wonderfully sarcastic droid in the form of K2-SO brilliantly voiced by Alan Tudyk.
Obviously I don't want to stray too far into spoiler territory but, there is the obvious element of prior knowledge given the long standing Episode 4. So Rogue in some ways has much to do as fans are more than aware of how this story plays out.
Gareth Edwards has done a fine job with this new addition. The story is initially slow and a little bit of planet hopping, as a means of character introduction, is mildly confusing but as the film continues the pace increases and ends with a sequence so dazzling it is practically at light speed. There were so many little details within the film that I really loved. An AT-AT putting its feet into sand and the sand folding around it really caught my eye and it is that minor details that makes Edwards such a good fit for this film. You get the impression that every narrative line and every starship detail has been checked and rechecked to ensure that everything flows as it should.
Rogue One is a war movie at its core and this does mean lots of battle sequences but these never seem out of control or hard to follow, a feat that many a blockbuster gets wrong. Some may find these sequences repetitive but given the investment levels in both the characters and story it really wasn't an issue.
Felicity Jones gives a great performance as Jyn Erso and is similar in many ways to Daisy Ridley's Rey. Both characters are seeking family and reconnection with who they are. Both are feisty and both would never back down from any oppressor. It is refreshing to have female characters as the focal points of these new stories and while Jyn Erso is very much the lone female throughout she shows enough character for the viewer to embrace and root for her throughout. Familiar faces also appear, keeping the die hard fan smiling with recognition, and the film also includes one of if not the greatest Darth Vader scenes in the entire franchise.
I attended a midnight screening and although tired today, it was a great experience to be in a screen where every patron was excited, invested and willing the film to be a success. To be in a room full of Star Wars fans watching such a great film has reinstalled my faith in the cinematic event. While Marvel Studios continue to relentlessly churn out superheroes for our cinematic pleasure; Star Wars (at least for now) is maintaining a slower, steadier approach and is all the better for it!
If war is the genre of cinema that Rogue One rests in then hope is the theme of the piece. Hope that better will come, hope of victory however long it takes and hope that this is not the end.
Coming at the end of 2016, Rogue One's story of hope may just be the exact thing some of us need to take us into the next episode.