Against All Odds, ‘Rogue One’ Delivers A Gritty, Flawed, Thrilling Adventure

Do you like Jedi?

I don’t. I think Jedi are boring. And I truly believe this is a major factor as to why the Star Wars prequels fail: We are surrounded by an almost never-ending supply of these boring, monotone, celibate fuddy duddies. And that’s always been the weird thing about Star Wars movies: We haven’t seen a lot of ALL OUT warring outside of Attack of the Clones, and that’s an early-aughts CGI slog fest. (We’ve seen some good battles – the Battle of Hoth being the best; the battle of Endor being too Ewok-laden – but Attack of the Clones, somehow, has the scene most resembling “war.”) But in all these movies, the battle is interrupted so we can watch a lightsaber fight between either old friends or father and son. (Or, as in the first two prequels: boring Jedi versus much more interesting Sith Lords.)

There is no lightsaber vs. lightsaber fight in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I mean this as a compliment. (Which means the only Jedi in this movie is Darth Vader.) Star Wars is at its best when Jedi is just a thing skeptics talk about. And Rogue One is that movie, a movie that exists to show us that there really was a true war going on. (Well, and to make a lot of money.) It can be brutal at times (for a Star Wars movie, at least) and isn’t beholden to any sequel other than the original Star Wars. (There will be no Rogue Two or Rogue One 2, or whatever.) Lucasfilm has made it clear this is a standalone movie. And it’s a movie that is the least dependent on other movies to explain what’s going on since the original Star Wars.

Also, it’s just great to see that iconic original Stormtrooper design again. Nothing against the First Order from The Force Awakens, but The Galactic Empire is just so sinister in comparison.

Rogue One begins with the dastardly Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) confronting Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), who is living a quiet life with his wife and daughter. The problem: Galen Erso is the scientist needed to get the Empire’s new super weapon to work: Its “planet killer” that you probably know much better as the Death Star. Galen is captured, while his daughter, a young Jyn Erso, escapes through a pre-planned escape route – and is eventually rescued by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

Years pass. Now set right before the events of the original Star Wars, the Rebel Alliance (based on the fourth moon of Yavin, which I must admit gave me a bit of that “chill up the spine” feeling) has word there’s an Imperial defector (a pilot named Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed) being held by Saw Gerrera. The Rebels – specifically a team led by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his cracking wise sidekick, former Imperial droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) – need the help of Jyn (Felicity Jones) to get to Saw, so the Rebels can get to Bodhi. And all of this is in an effort to eventually get the secret plans to the Death Star so that Luke Skywalker can blow it up in Star Wars.

And we’re off…

Darth Vader has some good scenes (you will be pleased), but the Empire’s leadership is mostly represented by Krennic and…

(Okay, I’ve debated this and I have to talk about another character in this movie because his role is too important. If you think “a major character is in a movie” is a spoiler, then you shouldn’t continue. I don’t think it’s a spoiler, but I also don’t want to be yelled at. If you don’t want to know anything about Rogue One, you probably shouldn’t be reading this in the first place.)