Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the first of many anthology movies that are to come in the Star Wars universe. We can expect to see a Han Solo spin off in the near future, and hopefully an Obi Wan Kenobi and Darh Vader spin off at some point. If Rogue One is any indication of the quality of these future movies, then we are in for some great movies.
Rogue One starts off without the opening crawl. This was publicized before the movie came out, and I was very interested to see if the movie would suffer without it. Unfortunately, I have to say that its presence was sorely missed. The nostalgia that hits every time I see the opening crawl hit the screen is something I always look forward to. It is a staple of the Star Wars movies, and I understand that they were trying to give this movie its own identity, but it could have easily benefited from the quick introduction that audiences have come to know and love. Not only this, but a nice little briefing to explain to less Star Wars-educated fans, where the movie was kicking off from would have cleaned up some of the confusion that probably stemmed from its fast start. Despite this little grievance I had with the movie, Rogue One still managed to deliver an incredible, action packed movie, that seamlessly filled the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.
The movie starts off with the typical wide view shot of space that succeeds the opening crawl. After this we are led right into Galen Erso and his re-assignment with the Empire. In this first opening scene we get a mere taste of the tragedy to come later on, when Galen's wife Lyra Erso is shot dead on commands from the main antagonist of the film General Krennic. In the fallout of this enagament, Jyn is left to be raised by Saw Gerrera. This scene sets the stage for Jyn's rebellious nature and her eventual rise within the Rebel Alliance. This was the perfect way to set up Jyn as a character, because it provided her with true tragedy and broke her down to almost nothing, giving her the best circumstances with which to rise up and become a hero.
The second act of Rogue One is mostly set up for the explosive finish, yet it never lost its entertainment. We follow Jyn as she is rescued by the Rebel Alliance, and get introduced to the characters she will spend the bulk of the film with, in K-2SO and Cassian Andor. If there is one thing these new Star Wars movies have mastered it is the implementation of funny and lovable droid characters. K-2SO follows right in BB-8's footsteps and delivers punchline after punchline, providing this movie with necessarily comic relief in a mostly serious story. In this middle portion we also meet Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, the two character who tie this film in with the rest of the universe by reminding the viewers that the force is still present. Chirrut is a blind man who excels at physical combat only through the will of the force, and this pays dividends later in the film. Baze is a friend of Chirrut who deals serious damage with an automatic weapon that tears Stormtroopers to shreds.
One of the scenes from the second act that I found most rewarding was the scene where Galen delivers his message to Jyn. This scene resulted in so much resolution as a Star Wars fan, as it revealed that the one glaring weakness in the Death Star was actually put in on purpose by Galen to give the rebellion a chance at destroying this world killer. This scene also manages to redeem Galen and provide Jyn with a symbol to fight for. Galen would not have kept working if he felt that they were not capable of finishing without him. With Jyn now knowing that her father was a hero and not an mindless agent of the Empire, she has reason to fight and save the cause her father died for.
This leads us into the third act, which is full of non-stop, incredible action. There was no better way for this movie to finish off than with a massive battle that took place on the ground and in the air. Seeing the giant AT-ACT Walkers on the ground and the massive Imperial ships in the air provided the audience with evidence of just how over matched the rebels were. This battle symbolized the meaning of the rebellion, as the vastly outnumbered rebels were able to fight just long enough to get Galen's Death Star plans to Admiral Raddus. The visuals of the beach and space fights were also incredible. The last scene of the movie, where Darth Vader attempts a last ditch effort to retrieve the Death Star plans, was undoubtedly my favorite. Watching vader tear apart the crew members, using his lightsaber and the force, was incredible to see. The advancements in CGI allow the true potential of Vader to be seen, and it is a true work of art.
In the end, as we all probably knew, the characters that we saw grow and evolve throughout the movie would eventually have to die. There is no mention or allusion to these characters in the future movies, so there demise was all but destined. Luckily, the movie was able to succeed in delivering perfect and meaningful deaths to all of the charcters. K-2SO died tragically, buying just enough time for Jyn and Cassian to steal the plans, Chirrut died sending the plans out to the Admiral, and Baze died fighting as one with the force, taking out every Stormtrooper in his path before he was eventually over matched. The best of all the deaths, however, was that of Jyn and Cassian, as we see them just after successfully defeating General Krennic, hugging, and than becoming a casualty to the massive power of the thing that they fought to destroy in the Death Star. This was the perfect way to go out for the two, as martyrs for the same cause the Galen died for. The death of loved characters is always sad in movie, but when it is for a a greater cause and adds to your love of the characters, it is worth.
In sum, Rogue One was a fantastic movie. It was able to perfectly lead to the beginning of A New Hope, without being consumed by this task. It succeeded most notably in its delivering of the story contained within the run time, and did not become weighed down by trying to provide setup or becoming a part of the greater universe. Rogue One is a story that is able to stand on its own epic tale or expand the already vast Star Wars universe, a true testament to director Gareth Edwards work.