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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story [2016]

An endlessly entertaining, action-packed & delightfully dark space extravaganza, this standalone chapter is surprisingly good in more ways than one, and is much better than it had any right to be.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story [2016] – A Fascinating Addition To The Mythology That More Than Delivers.

Bridging the gap between George Lucas’ highly influential & much revered original Star Wars Trilogy and his equally detestable prequel series, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had no valid reason to exist and so when it was green-lit for production, the move was seen by many as yet another cash-grab attempt from Lucasfilm’s new parent company and, apart from bringing more cash into the studio’s reserves, it was also aimed at prepping the viewers to keep the juices flowing during the void between the two episodes of the ongoing sequel saga of this epic space opera.

However, it is this self-contained existence of Rogue One only that works in favour of this unnecessary chapter and sets it apart from the rest of the entries in the Star Wars saga, for it allowed the filmmakers the creative freedom to take the story in any direction they desired as long as it concluded where the original Star Wars commenced. Frankly, this ambitious project could’ve gone horribly wrong but director Gareth Edwards takes full advantage of the blank canvas to deliver an endlessly entertaining, action-packed & delightfully dark space extravaganza that’s thoroughly satisfying on most levels.

Set in a galaxy far, far away, the story of Rogue One follows Jyn Erso, the daughter of the chief architect of the Galactic Empire’s latest weapon, the Death Star, who’s been living the life of a renegade and has operated under various aliases over the years. Freed from her captivity by the Rebel Alliance who are aware of her real identity, she is recruited along with several other members on a mission to steal the plans for the Empire’s superweapon from their very archives so that the Alliance can learn more about this new weapon of mass destruction and exploit any of its weaknesses.

Directed by Gareth Edwards, who led the resurgence of the King of Monsters with Godzilla back in 2014 (or so they say), Rogue One is only his third feature film but it is also the best of the three and is definitely his most balanced directorial effort, for its plot & characters aren’t entirely discarded while serving the other requisites of this blockbuster material. Edwards aims for a different style & tone with this stand-alone Star Wars film to set it apart from the traditional episodes of the saga and fills it with plenty of action & spectacle to keep the viewers entertained before wrapping it all up without leaving behind any traces.

Absent is the iconic Star Wars opening crawl and although many characters from the original film do make their appearance, thanks to some cutting edge CGI, Rogue One remains a separate entity in itself that doesn’t take away anything from the franchise and has plenty in store for those who may be interested in the events that take place during the vacuum that separates the third & fourth episodes of the saga. The screenplay has its share of positives & negatives, for Jyn Erso’s arc is quite compelling, there is a sense of urgency in its narrative structure, and its action segments keep surfacing at regular intervals but the remaining characters aren’t as fleshed as our protagonist.

Its grand set pieces are expertly designed & meticulously detailed and truly belong to the Star Wars universe. Shooting locations are just as exotic & wide-ranging and add a sense of splendour to the whole surrounding. Cinematography employs the camera with a kinetic flair that works best during moments of action while its vibrant colour palette & intelligent lighting further refine the look & feel of its images and brings them to life with sharp clarity. Editing progresses the storyline at a consistent pace but the middle part still lags in bits n pieces. VFX is top-notch and CGI is effectively utilised. Lastly, the background score by Michael Giacchino does exhibit the Star Wars feel and wonderfully complements the narrative.

Coming to the performances, the film features a diverse cast in Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Jiang Wen & Alan Tudyk, the latter playing a droid. Leading from the front is Jones who plays Jyn Erso from inside-out and delivers an excellent performance. Neither Luna nor his character is interesting. Mendelsohn contributes with a sinister input. Ahmed does a fine job with what he is given. Whitaker hams as expected. Mikkelsen plays his part with finesse. Tudyk as K-2SO packs more personality than others while Donnie Yen as a blind warrior who believes in the Force effortlessly steals the show. Darth Vader also makes a memorable appearance and his cameo is absolutely chilling.

On an overall scale, Rogue One is a fascinating addition to the Star Wars mythology and is much better than it had any right to be. Jam-packed with thrilling action, encapsulated with a dark ambience, and heading seamlessly into the episode that started it all, this stand-alone entry is a smartly directed, finely scripted & brilliantly performed space opera that further benefits from its rich photography, swift pace, arresting set pieces, impressive action segments, top-notch visual effects & magnificent score to provide a big-budget extravaganza that more than delivers & fulfils all expectations. In the past, I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the original & prequel Star Wars trilogies but both The Force Awakens & now Rogue One seem to click where the previous films didn’t. And for that, I sure as hell am not complaining.

★½

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