There are many elements of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that make it stand alone from other films in the Star Wars saga, but that does not make it any better. I won’t go into spoilers, but there is one key part of a Star Wars movie that you would expect to have and this film does not. I won’t say what it is, but when you see it, I hope you are not as let down as I was.
I was always a Star Wars fan since I first saw it at the age of 7 or 8 (the original trilogy came out before I was born), yet I admit I still was unsure of what to expect with the movie, but about twenty minutes or so into it, I started getting “a bad feeling about this”. If you don’t know the Star Wars films (and you should), Rogue One is supposed to take place right in between episodes three (Revenge of the Sith) and four (A New Hope). It tells the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose mother is killed after her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken by an Imperial Commander, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), to return to the Empire to help finish the Death Star, despite not wanting to go.
Eventually, Jyn meets up with another rebel named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who is accompanied by a scene stealing K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). While he has nothing on R2-D2 (possibly my favorite character of all time), K-2SO does hold his own. We get other characters including a blind Baze Malbus (Donnie Yen), his friend Chirrut Imwe (Wen Jiang), pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and the mysterious gritty Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
One of the main problems that the movie (along with The Force Awakens, which I feel was much better) is that it lacks a good villain. Krennic is an imperial officer who does have other authorities to report to, mainly Moff Tarkin (originally played by Peter Cushing in the first Star Wars, though now is CGI enhanced on actor Guy Henry, which I must admit looked pretty awesome). Still, there is no way around the fact that it is Darth Vader (still voiced, as he always should be, by James Earl Jones) that commands the screen. No matter your thought on this or any film in the franchise, the image of the all black suit sends chills down your spine.
This also causes a dilemma, because the movie was apparently supposed to be known as a stand alone. Sure, some minor characters make appearances that I would consider as “easter eggs”, but we get other main characters (besides Vader) who make brief cameos. While I was ok with the one at the end of the film, there was another during a lift off scene that was totally tacked on and not needed at all (much like the titles of the names of all the planets).
Parents, despite it being a PG-13 movie, there is nothing completely wrong here at all that a child of 8 or 9 could not see. Characters die, but if they have seen any of the other films, they are fine here.
Is this movie better than the originals? Heavens no. Is it better than the prequels? I don’t know (it has been a while since I saw those, although I am still confident my least favorite of all Star Wars films is Episode Two). For one reason or another, Rogue One does seem to miss the gravitas that makes the Star Wars universe so wonderful in the first place.
Overall: Two and a Half Stars ** 1/2