“That’s an impounded Imperial ship! What’s your call sign, pilot?” asked the flight controller at Rebel Headquarters on Yavin 4. “It’s uh, uh, Rogue, Rogue One,” answered Bodhi Rook, before launching an unsanctioned mission. “Rogue One? There is no Rogue One,” the man barked back.
To those not aware, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place before Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. For in that film, episode 4 launched the franchise to become a global phenomenon, introducing characters Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi Jedi Knight and of course Darth Vader. With that cleared up, minor spoilers ahead.
Rogue One begins as a black Imperial Shuttle approaches the ringed planet Lah’mu. The shuttle arrival has alerted Lyra Erso (Valene Kane), her husband Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), and their young daughter Jyn. Swift preparations are made. Lyra by electronic device calls Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), a wanted resistance fighter, while Galen speaks parting words to Jyn, a young girl looking about five. Jyn is told to hide before Galen meets the Imperial contingent, several black clad stormtroopers and a high ranking official clad in white, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), director of advanced weapons research.
Hospitable words are first exchanged between the two men. We then learn that Galen, a brilliant scientist who formerly worked for the Imperial Empire, fled to become a farmer with his family on Lah,mu. Even so, Galen lies about his family’s whereabouts to protect. Nonetheless, though Krennic is touched that Galen has become a farmer, he implores Galen to come back to finish his work for the Empire. All while Galen’s wife and daughter remain out of sight. That is so far.
“We are this close to providing peace and security to the galaxy,” says Krennic, as he tries first peacefully to persuade. “You’re confusing peace with terror,” counters Galen calmly. “Well, we have to start somewhere,” Krennic replies softly to his former colleague and friend. For Krennic wants Erso back to finish work on a super weapon, a planet killer, later to be known of course as the Death Star.
Knowing her husband will be taken anyway, Lyra appears suddenly with blaster ready. Though outnumbered, there’s a standoff. Despite Galen’s pleas to lower her weapon, Lyra opens fire on Krennic, hitting his arm while she’s killed quickly after by a stormtrooper. Shortly after the tragedy, the young tot Jyn Erso quickly hides in a secret chamber beneath a rock, later to be found by Saw Gerrera. And Rogue One takes off from there.
There have been several quibbling critiques about this film. That’s it’s a slog. If any Star Wars film, that would be Episode I - The Phantom Menace, but not Rogue One. That it’s too long. Not really. All Star Wars films average two hours fifteen minutes, with Rogue One, according to IMDb (Internet Movie Database) having a running time of two hours fourteen. The 2012 billion dollar blockbuster Marvel film The Avengers ran two hours twenty three minutes, and you didn’t hear any complaining about length in that film.
There’s the complaint about the stormtroopers, how they just can’t seem to put up a decent fight. My take on this is historically symbolic. Stormtroopers are usually more effective en masse as a very large force, used to fighting in conformity. Whereas anything smaller, such as a platoon or a squad, stormtroopers usually succumb to asymmetrical warfare, in other words improvised surprise guerilla warfare, such as from a Rebel force. Which happens during a scene in the film.
Stormtroopers are meant to be faceless, and they’re to act by conformity. Made clearer, in the previous 2015 film, Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. For there’s a scene in that film on the desert planet Jakku, when Stormtrooper FN-2187 refuses to take part in the slaughter of villagers. FN-2187 is later berated for this by Captain Phasma, a chrome helmeted and suited stormtrooper, who also asks, “And who gave you permission to remove that helmet?” To which afterwards, he’s ordered to report to Captain Phasma’s division for signs of non-conformity. Whereas, only higher ranking superiors do not don helmets.
The Imperial Empire is used to being proud of superior forces and technological might. Which later proves their undoing, whereas as a scene in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, is the best example. Darth Vader, with Grand Moff Tarkin at his side, both listened to a commander, one of six in the room, speaking boastfully about the Darth Star being no match for the Rebel Alliance. While Darth Vader, as evil as he is, says, “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the force.” Another way of saying, that which is invisible can destroy the visible. The Rebel forces may be middling compared to the Imperial Empire, yet the Rebels have hope, and later also, the force, on their side. That which is both the lasting appeal and the message of the Star Wars saga.
Another quibbling critique about Rogue One is that there’s too many characters. Which actually is somewhat fair. Though given the enormity of the mission, the many characters were needed. Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) of Rebel Intelligence, with the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO, voiced by actor Alan Tudyk, must obtain the plans of the Death Star. To do this, Capt. Andor must lead a band of misfits, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), defected Imperial pilot, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), blind spiritual warrior, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), marksman and best friend of Imwe, and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), now a young woman who had grown up among Saw Gerrera’s insurgents.
Finally, there’s the critique about the young woman Jyn Erso character played by Felicity Jones, by unfairly comparing her to Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Daisy Ridley as Rey in their character portrayals. As if she doesn’t measure up. Of all the critiques, this is the most unfair.
All three heroes involved distinctly separate journeys. If anything, the Jyn Erso character is more believable than Rey in The Force Awakens, even though the Rey character does share likeability among the three. While The Force Awakens was a likeable film, Rogue One was more than that.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is spectacular in story, characters, and CGI. The CGI appearance of Grand Moff Tarkin was stunning. Most especially, the film gives forth another message. That for liberating conflicts to succeed, be it war or political, there usually involves tremendous sacrifices. And in this film, there are sacrifices. Rogue One gets five out of five stars, grand slam.