Sacrifice and Hope in Rogue One – Spoiler Free Review

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I was stunned. This is the best way to describe how I felt leaving my “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” screening. But, let me back up a bit. What follows is a spoiler free review of the film that will touch only on known plot points officially released, and my feelings and thoughts about the film. However, if you wish to remain even less knowledgeable about the film than what trailers and TV spots have shown, you may wish to sign out now.

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It was Wednesday evening, and my brother (and fellow Star Wars Report founder) Riley Blanton and I were on our way to see “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” I had been nervous ever since I found out we were attending this pre-screening, and my nerves increased as the hours passed closer to showtime. I was wearing my “I Rebel” t-shirt from UNICEF’s “Star Wars” initiative (read more about that here), my rebel logo earrings, and carrying my BB-8 purse to the screening. It was in IMAX 3D, and I am so glad I saw it in that format. After going through an extensive security process, we entered the theater, and thus began our experience of a film that made me laugh, shed a few tears, and hang on to my theater chair arms. I was in tears more in this film than I was in “The Force Awakens,” and that’s saying something.

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At the Regal Cinemas in Atlantic Station.

“Rogue One” is directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and this is the first of the Star Wars Anthology films. The IMDB plot overview sums it up nicely: “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. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.” We get essentially the same plot overview from the opening crawl in “A New Hope” as well.

In the Atlantic Station square right before the screening.
In the Atlantic Station square right before the screening.

In many ways this direct connection with “A New Hope” makes this film feel like an extension of the original trilogy. This is done in a very positive way, but the film also felt like a different and new flavor of Star Wars. An example of this is the lack of an opening crawl. Even knowing it wouldn’t be there before watching the film, it felt odd to me; but the difference while tangible is good. It’s distinctive enough to feel like a non-saga, anthology film while maintaining the integrity of the original trilogy and the heart of a Star Wars film.

The main character of the film is definitely Jyn Erso, and the term “reluctant hero” fits, but she starts out as more than reluctant hero, but as a hardened criminal before embarking on a somewhat classic hero’s journey. I love her character, and felt that even though she might technically fit the “tough chick” stereotype, she very believable and human. Her hero’s journey feels unique in that the main characters are truly an ensemble cast. All of them have distinctive personalities and motivations, backgrounds and characteristics. It is truly a diverse cast with intriguing characters. There are elements of stereotypes, but not in negative ways, and there are surprises in store for the viewer.

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K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid was one of my favorite new characters, making the audience laugh frequently, but in more of a HK-47 way (from the Knights of the Old Republic game) than in a C-3PO way. Chirrut Îmwe, a blind guardian of the Whills was also one of my favorites, a character you’d aspire to be more like, someone who can maintain faith and a calm, ironic sense of humor in the most dire of circumstances. Chirrut reminds me in some ways of Obi-Wan. His friend Baze Malbus was really cool (and his weapon was intimidating), and his devotion to Chirrut was endearing.

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Saw Gerrera was also a character that captures your attention, and it isn’t lost on the viewer that his life support system eerily reminds you of Lord Vader’s. A rebel extremist, Saw is an example of what tyranny can drive someone to do, and what someone can become out of desperation. Cassian Andor is a rebel agent and spy, warrior and pilot, and all around cool guy. I wasn’t expecting his character to surprise me, but he did, and I love how well done his character arc was. Bodhi Rook is also introduced as a new character, and his defection from the Empire is an example of all of the characters’ courage in rebelling.

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The villains in this film are also done quite well. Darth Vader is chilling (I’ll leave it at that), and Tarkin is the political leader who has a powerful commanding, military presence you would expect. Director Krennic is a character who has personal goals and ambitions, but truly believes the Empire is bringing order to the galaxy.

This film made me think about morality as well. Is there room for a greater good argument in the face of something as evil and unstoppable as the Galactic Empire and the Sith? At what point are actions taken against them as bad as the actions they commit? Is it acceptable on the other end to give up? Is it possible to resist more peacefully and only politically? Would someone like the Emperor listen to something like that? Is it unconscionable to allow something like the evil Empire to exist without utilizing all forms of resistance possible?

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But, the two themes that stand out the most for me are hope and sacrifice. “Rebellions are built on hope” is the refrain of the film, and without this hope the rebellion wouldn’t exist, the courageous decisions of sacrifice wouldn’t happen, and our heroes wouldn’t be heroes risking everything, some losing everything, to support this hope, this dream that the galaxy wouldn’t be doomed for an eternity of rule by the Sith and an Empire of oppression.

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The IMAX 3D presentation of the film was incredibly beautiful, and the 3D enhanced the film instead of drawing away from it. Granted, being at the Regal Cinemas in Atlantic Station may have made the difference, as different screens and types of 3D do make a difference.

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The film itself is beautiful. The many planets and landscapes we see, from Jedha, to Scarriff and more are incredible, and reminded me of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and the prequel films. The space battles are some of the best in Star Wars period, and the grip my chair arms moments were mostly brought about by them. Call backs to the original trilogy are frequent and nostalgic, and serve to anchor the new characters will ones already familiar to us. This film is a worthy direct prequel to the events of “A New Hope,” and I highly recommend it not just for Star Wars fans, but movie goers wanting to see a beautiful movie with engaging characters, and a great story with stakes. It is a war movie, and I would caution viewers to take that into consideration when seeing it with children. It will change how you see “A New Hope,” and for the better (which I didn’t believe was possible).

Thank you Entertain Art for sponsoring the Star Wars Report’s coverage of “Rogue One!” Get officially licensed ready-to-hang Star Wars wall art and more. Go to http://www.starwarsreport.com/art and enter the discount code: “SWR20″ for 20% off your purchase!

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“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opens in the US tonight, December 15th. Go see it!

Bethany Blanton

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  • Wayne Gautney

    I watched Rogue One last night with my 21 year old son and 10 year old daughter. We were all thrilled with the movie! I was left a bit disappointed with the Force Awakens last year (but I’m reserving final judgement until I see where they take the story with Episode VIII) but Rogue One was funny, visually mesmerizing, exciting, tense, and filled with all sorts of joyful little easter eggs! I would rank the Star Wars movies this way…

    1. Empire Strikes Back
    2. A New Hope
    3. Return of the Jedi
    4. Rogue One
    5. Phantom Menace
    6. Revenge of the Sith
    7. Attack of the Clones

    • The Star Wars Report

      Hi Wayne! Thanks for commenting! Ugh I still can’t decide my ranking. It’ll probably be a while before I can. That’s so cool that all of you at different ages really liked it! I loved TFA, but I guess it took me a little bit to get used to it. I didn’t have the same level of excitement after TFA the first time I watched it as I did after Rogue One the first time watching it. I love that it did have funny moments that worked well despite the fact that it was essentially a war movie. ~Bethany

  • shani