Editor’s Note: The podcast contains spoilers. The written review is spoiler free.
In today’s world, we live a society that loves to exploit popular franchises to the max.
Example: The Hobbit, one book that ended up being 3 movies of excessiveness.
Hunger Games, cutting the last book in 2 parts for no good reason at all.
Hollywood loves to pull at our wallets till we’re broke. It has become a norm to say at the end of a film, “Well, I guess we have to wait a year to find out what happens!”
This is why I love, absolutely love Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Rogue One is exactly as promised: a self-contained story that doesn’t pull us into its depths to have us get emotionally invested in the characters and then leave you wanting more.
Rogue One drops us into the Star Wars franchise between the Episode 3 (Revenge of the Sith) and Episode 4 (A New Hope). Because Rogue One exists outside of the known canon of the franchise the storyline is given a lot of latitudes.
The majority of the characters are not mentioned directly in the previous films. On top of that, the movie aims to forge a connection to the older movies by filling in some of the plotholes that George Lucas left behind.
Rogue One, without feeling clunky, manages to fill the textual void in the Star Wars universe without being too heavy handed. It uses the source material on the fringes of the plot while still making the new characters and storyline shine.
Following the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens we’ve also given another amazing female character to fall in love with. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) becomes the beacon of light that the story forges itself around.
Unlike The Force Awaken’s Rey (Daisy Ridley) who has more of a wide-eyed, coming of age feel to her, Erso is a hardened soul who has been abandoned one too many times.
While we don’t get a look into Erso’s teenage struggles, it is bluntly apparent that her life has not been easy and much of the blame for that falls on the actions of The Empire and their connection to her family.
Felicity Jones sells us Erso’s emotional arc that ranges from cold and detached to the spearhead of a rebellion that stokes the fires of the beloved trilogy to follow.
But this is a team effort. The rag-tag group of nobodies whose actions are mentioned in A New Hope but unattributed are finally given the credit they deserve.
One of the biggest aspects of the story is the diversity present in the film. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) make the Star Wars universe look a whole lot more like our universe.
Looking back Star Wars episodes 4-6 it is hard to deny that the franchise was still very, very white. Samuel L. Jackson’s appearance in Episodes 1-3 seemed to move the Star Wars franchise to a better state of diversity. Jumping ahead to last year we got Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron pp(Oscar Issac) that helped usher in more variety of casting into the franchise.
But Rogue One takes what The Force Awakens started and follows it up with two shots of espresso.
Following the controversy of Doctor Strange casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang presence in Rogue One offers a legitimacy not only to the story but the concept of The Force and not only what it means to the Jedi but those who have a deep connection to it.
Without fail Rogue One delivers a stellar cast and a story that is fitting of its franchise. Lucas Film and Disney have delivered a film that packs the emotional punch before jumping into the events of A New Hope. On top of that, it gave us a brief, but unforgettable characters that may be not in the range of Luke Skywalker but are none-the-less stars in their own right.