OK despite the website title (cautionspoilers), and my name (Sarah Spoilers), I am going to give you a warning – POTENTIAL SPOILERS! I’m not aiming to, but sometimes I get carried away and I know just how into Star Wars people are, simply from the number of people on social media who disappeared for a week until they could see the film without accidentally finding out what happens from a smug “hey I saw it at 12.01 the day it came out!” person on Instagram or Twitter (yes that would be me. Well you try finding an easy time to watch an over two hours epic with Christmas in 10 days and the school holidays starting within hours. I actually wish more films were shown at midnight).
For the record, I’m not a Star Wars fangirl – but I can understand a bit what that must be like for you. Watching a Star Wars film with me would be like when I force people to sit down and watch John Wick and at the end I look at them in astonishment as they say “well it was quite good but he killed a lot of people didn’t he and I don’t think I need to see it again”.
I have actually seen the first three Star Wars films, but nearly 20 years ago when they were re-released – and despite that feeling to someone my age like just a couple of years ago, if you asked me what happened I mostly wouldn’t be able to tell you. I say mostly as obviously I know a fair bit, as Star Wars is now so much part of our cultural wallpaper we seem to just know about it through a kind of artistic epigenetics. I saw The Force Awakens last year and really enjoyed that too but again… well you know.
But Star Wars plot-holes (unless so big the story totters over the edge and can’t climb out again), or cameos (unless so big they’re basically Darth Vader), will pretty much pass me by. But hey I know a really good night’s entertainment when I see it and Rogue One is definitely that. (By the way there is an amazing cameo, DEAD GOOD in fact, that I’m NOT going to tell you about despite my name so it’s a big surprise. I know I spoil you lot, when I’m not spoiler-ing you).
In fact Rogue One is a total blast (see what I did there) from start to finish. You don’t need to be a Star Wars superfan as there are plenty of nods to aspects of the original films which are known to everybody, including C-3PO and R2-D2. The music is fabulous and has just enough nods to the original scores to keep everyone happy. And there’s the return of the Dark Lord himself who appears to be living in a giant glass test-tube.
Other aspects deliberately don’t mimic the other films – the on-screen written introduction is sparse and there aren’t paragraphs of information scrolling into star-spattered deep space.
I’d heard Rogue One was a dark film but there are plenty of funny one liners, mostly from the droid K-2SO, who is basically your mum if she was ever downloaded into a computer, giving you percentage-accurate likelihoods of disaster striking if you continue with your current course of action.
And Donnie Yen, playing a blind martial artist warrior Chirrup Îmwe, who spends a lot of time muttering “I’m one with the force. The force is with me” utters a slightly irritated “Are you kidding me? I’m BLIND!” as a rather pointless sack is put over his head during a capture. The film looks literally dark a lot of the time though, and it seems to rain a lot.
I’m going to give you the basics of the plot. Rogue One starts on a mystery planet where Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) farms with his wife and young daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones plays the adult Jyn and young Jyn looks uncannily like her). Galen has previously worked on Empire weapons research for Orson Krennic, but he’s escaped. Now Krennic is taking him back in, despite Galen’s reluctance, but not before Galen – who has been preparing his family for this day – helps his daughter escape. And that’s the last time she sees her dad until she’s an adult. Hiding in a tunnel in a cave, she is rescued by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), a rebel who later becomes too extreme even for the rebels.
Fast forward several years and Jyn has grown up and is in a labour prison. Rescued by the rebels, she shows her gratitude and suspicion by trying to escape, but is captured and brought in. They want to use her to get to her father. She teams up – mutually suspicious at first – with Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna).There’s also a pilot, Bodhi (Riz Ahmed), who has defected to the rebels, but ended up in the “care” of Gerrera, and who has brought with him a hologram message from Galen. This message reveals how the Death Star can be defeated, but just as importantly for Jyn it’s a chance for her dad to try to explain himself to her despite knowing she might never see it. Their task is to follow Galen’s instructions to destroy the super weapon.
It’s an entertaining adventure (and the last third of the film is particularly breathtaking) but there is also a deeper understanding that life and decision-making gets messy even if you’re on the “right” side. That no side is ever entirely innocent and good people often have to do bad things to fulfil their aims, even the rebels.
I thought the characterisation was pretty strong. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are brilliant in their roles. Jones is totally believable and a billion times more interesting than in Inferno earlier this year. In Rogue One she’s been abandoned in some way by the two main male figures in her life, Galen and Gerrera. Ben Mendlesohn is great as the evil Krennic, who will do anything and destroy anyone to get his terrifying secret weapon – the Death Star – ready, even demo-ing it by blowing up a city on a whim.
And I loved loved LOVED K-2SO, a droid who has fallen into rebel hands and been reprogrammed – if this wasn’t Star Wars he would probably be given his own spin off show now.
Would I watch Rogue One again? Yes, definitely, and I don’t say that very often about films (god I barely have time to watch films once). It’s a really entertaining, well-made film, that stands on its own within the Star Wars universe and that manages to uphold the old mythologies while creating new ones. (I’m almost sounding like a fan aren’t I, I’ll be wearing the T-shirt next, just you wait.)
Anyway I’ve got to go, my kids are starting to kick off while muttering “rebellions are built on hope”, I think they want a chocolate biscuit.