I don’t know why but up until very recently I haven’t been as excited about the arrival of Rogue One as much as I was last year with The Force Awakens. I think last year nostalgia got the better of me and the thought of seeing Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie etc back on the big screen, continuing a story that I’d loved so dearly throughout my childhood was just too overwhelming. Going back in time again for Rogue One just conjured up sad reminders of Episodes I, II and III and the apparent lack of any familiar characters in this story (apart from Vader, obviously) got me worried about whether or not I’d have the same Star Wars feeling when watching it. I’ll admit that as time went on, and more trailers and footage were shown, I’ve got more interested and excited, but there’s still that nagging worry that I’m sure all Star Wars fans will have.
I decided not to repeat last years mistake though. Attending a midnight screening of The Force Awakens was too much for this forty-something lightweight to handle and I still feel ashamed, falling asleep for around 20 minutes during the middle of the movie. This year though, I’d booked a nice early 7pm showing. And then over the last 24 hours some of the most amazing reviews have been flooding in, some even saying that this was better than The Force Awakens!! I was starting to wish I’d gone for that midnight screening – the excitement was unbearable!!
Back in 1977, when ‘A New Hope’ hit our screens, the opening crawl did a great job in setting the scene for what came next, but it was soon forgotten. “Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….”. That basically covers a hell of a lot! We know the outcome of the battle, in the same way that we know the outcome of the many battles of our own world wars and conflicts, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a damn good movie out of it!
We first see our main hero, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), as a child, living an isolated existence with her parents. One day, soldiers of the Empire arrive, intent on taking them from their home. Jyns father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is a scientist with skills that are needed for working on completion of some kind of Imperial super-weapon (hmm, what could that be…?). While her parents are in conflict with the soldiers, Jyn manages to escape. We then return to her 15 years later as an adult, where she has being arrested due to her fathers involvement with the Empire.
Jyn is thrown together with a bunch of others, one of them holding a holographic message from her father. In the message he explains his decision to finally work on the Death Star, but he also gives her the knowledge on how to defeat it. She decides to step up to the task and rustles together a platoon of soldiers with the aim of locating the schematics and the with the hope of saving numerous lives with its destruction…
Up until this point, I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t care much for any of the characters and the plot was dull and uninteresting. It didn’t feel like Star Wars. But then we hit Scarif, where the Death Star plans are located and waiting to be stolen. It’s a beautiful beach planet and it’s where the legendary battle takes place. It’s also where this movie seriously shifts up a level. It’s all out war, fought both on ground and in space, and featuring so many elements from previous Star Wars movies. AT-ATs, X-Wings, Y-Wings, Star Destroyers, Storm Troopers!! It’s exhilarating, gritty war – intense, action packed and not without heavy loss. Even when you know the final outcome you’re on the edge of your seat wondering if they’ll succeed in retrieving the plans and getting them to Leia for Episode IV!
You may have already read about the appearance of some of the episode IV characters in this movie and while I wasn’t entirely convinced by them, bravo for trying – a very nice touch, linking to the other movies perfectly. However, the greatest appearance of all is Vader… breathtaking to see him in action once again, even if you can hear age creeping into the voice of James Earl Jones. The second half of this movie just feels like Star Wars and ties in beautifully with A New Hope, it’s just a shame about the first half.