SPOILER FREE FILM REVIEW: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

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“ From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.” starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Rogue_One:_A_Star_Wars_Story

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Gareth Edwards fabulously entwines this familiar – yet fresh, insight into your most favourite galaxy far- far away, with (in my mind) great success.

From the opening reel, you get captivated as you relive episodes of old; as an all too familiar intro leads you into a false sense of security of- you’ve seen this all before territory?

Of course you have. Yet the magical thing Edwards does here, is that it’s the same in so many ways, yet the galaxies you see before you, is ( to coin a phrase from that other well-known space Sci-Fi franchise) well, the same…. but not as you know it!

It begins with the initial back story of protagonist Jyn Erso – which strikes a nice ensemble of: synopsis, that all too familiar family tie-in and how the Empire tears her family apart.

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Cut to an older Jyn in present day. From there prepare to hold on tight, as you chop and change across the galaxy, getting introduced to new characters and new planets/ systems alike. The main team assemble, whilst the rebellion rescue Jyn Erso from Imperial hostage, as she heads to Rebel base, discovering her father is working on the Death Star- all go in around 20-30 minutes!

Credit to Felicity Jones as her portrayal of Jyn Erso. She plays the lead role brilliantly. Mads Mikkelsen also gives a strong rendition of father Galen Erso.

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From there on in, the film plays out the story you know the ending to already. All whilst delivering fabulous cinematography, CGI, effects and well crafted and thought out battle sequences.

The whole galaxy hopping expedition coincided with the meeting and gathering of a new team of Rebellions – does give the story the refreshing new impetus it needs.

This aids to it standing out as a stand-alone movie – all whilst giving fans, old and new, a wider perception and insight into the Star Wars Galaxy.

The new characters give great accounts of themselves. For some, their back story gets lost in the whole equation but that’s to be expected with so many characters to introduce.

Of the new characters; K2SO played by Alan Tudyk, is a refreshing take on the droid stars before him and I really like the ‘reprogrammed’ element to his characterisation which allows a different take on such a role. The Imperial link allows authenticity to the story and to his inside knowledge of the Empire. His cautious, yet direct and humorous approach is very entertaining and fits the character dynamics well. Though some argue it’s just another C3PO casting, I enjoyed Tudyk’s performance.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) Photo credit: Lucasfilm/ILM ©2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Diego Luna as Captain Cassian Andor and Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, do give very strong and convincing performances – the later although not a Jedi has force user abilities- giving him a Maz Kanata / Obi Wan kind of role in the film- which is a nice touch all in all.

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Forest Whitaker strikes a somewhat estranged, fearsome character as Clone Wars Veteran and Rebel Leader ‘Saw Gerrea’. His character is vital in bringing the ‘Rebel’ to the Rebel Alliance, but this isn’t his strongest work.

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The new look Storm Troopers are a welcome addition and like Episode VII before it, they play a more dominant role in the films with more sequences, more differentiation, more dialect and inclusion.

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Ultimately how Edwards links this film brilliantly into Episode IV though-is his masterstroke.

There are plenty of Easter Eggs for fans to keep a look out for, references and even familiar faces and characters from episode IV and beyond, making cameos and reprising old roles, featuring throughout the film.

The music by Michael Giacchino incorporates John Williams themes from previous scores and leaves the hairs on the back of your neck standing throughout – aiding to the continuity of the originals.

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The use of CGI is off the hook! Was it over saturated at times with the characters involved….? Maybe – but ultimately a nice touch which was both bold; yet satisfyingly worked and left this Star Wars fans mind – blown!

Ultimately gluing this to the original trilogies was not only the main synopsis but the inclusion of our favourite villain Darth Vader.

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This was a good portrayal of your favourite intergalactic bad guy as he models a modified outfit with minor adjustments. James Earl Jones reprises his role as the voice. His involvement is, as expected minimal but you still get enough of Vader to warrant his inclusion – he even gets to throw in the odd force choke – nice! I did love his dark side power wielding at the end too –watch out for that.

Whilst on the topic of protagonists, the main one in this film is Orson Krennic played by Ben Mendelsohn. His performance can’t be faulted. I thought he fitted the role and played the sinister power hungry crazed Villain excellently.

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Now onto the battle scenes. As ever Edwards stays true to the formula that has worked so well in episodes before it by running battles simultaneously as to act as decoy to the Villain, which brings so much joy to the viewer!

Though joyous in action and effects, it brings to life more realism, empathy and a more naturalistic portrayal of war than its predecessors, as you witness people actually get injured, losing their lives in battle and you get different aspects and views from not just the lead roles but other characters too. The cinematography during the beach scene is great too.

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It was no secret Edwards wanted to make this more of a War film and I would have to agree with other critics, that he has done well to truly put the war into Star Wars.

The fight in the sky with X-Wings and TIE Fighters is both gripping and nostalgic with (slight spoiler fact) ‘uncut footage’ included in these sequences; from the original Episode IV fight scenes! Nice touch Gold leader!

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It’s the battle on the beach though that leaves you finely balanced between cheering over the sight of an AT-AT with sympathy for the Alliance as they struggle to withstand the Empire.

The film ends with a seamless flow and transition into Episode IV and even though you know how this story ends, Edwards gives it a righteous ending that enables it, to not only fit into the grand scheme of things but also allows it to stand on its own as a standalone hit.

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So Gareth Edwards has proven that you can make a stand alone Star Wars film after all.

It’ll be interesting to see if future ‘spin offs’ or ‘Star Wars Stories’ can match it.

A must watch for all Star Wars fans. I personally loved it.

Is it better than Episode VII – probably not but it was never supposed to be nor was going to be.

It does rank very close though. To me, it strikes a much better balance of originality with the true essence of Star Wars. More than JJ Abrams arguable rip off of Episode IV.

At the end of this movie, you leave with so many unanswered questions answered, a huge smile on your face from the nostalgic feel good factor, a sense of fulfillment from the epic battle sequences, all whilst your galactic passport gets well and truly stamped on this first Star Wars stand-alone film.

Worth a double watch as I look to purchase IMAX tickets next time round. Roll on Episode VIII.

May the force be with you….. Always.

JabberMan UK Rating: 4/5.

4-out-of-five

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JMUK

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