Light It Up 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 

Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Jonathan Aris, Genevieve O’Reilly, Jimmy Smits, Alistar Petrie and James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader
Director: Gareth Edwards
Scriptwriters: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, based on characters by George Lucas
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Cinematographer: Greig Fraser
Lucasfilm, Ltd/Walt Disney Studio
Rating: PG 13 for battle scenes
Running Length: 140 minutes

It can be done.  A “Star Wars” film with a heart. Stand-alone, it is, but with the ambience, humor, hope and affection that came with the rest of the films......though sometimes, hard to find.  It is also with such hope that film critics go to film screenings on cold winter mornings and sit in cold theaters with cold fingers trying to take notes---you get a pleasant surprise. 

The basic story is war and resistance to war. The game of oneupmanship, in this galaxy, is that the Rebels do not have the upper hand, and the Empire does. The Rebels snip, snip, snip at the heels of the Empire, that tries to swat them down, and doesn't always succeed. Such is the world we enter in “Rogue One,” where the Empire is trying to build a Death Star (top secret) and the Rebels know something is afoot, but what?  Heroes come in many shapes and sizes and ethnicity. "Rogue One" has a blind archer and I think the arrows go by heat sensing, plus he has an uncanny ability to avoid danger while walking. So, the stage is set just before the very first “Star Wars” movie, that some people back then thought was so thrilling they sat through it three times in the same day. This is how fans are born. 

Who to star in “Rogue One?” Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) has the lead as Jyn Erso, a young Rebel, and daughter of Galen Erso, whose knowledge of technology is helping the Empire build an “ultimate weapon.” Jyn might not be as tall as everyone in the room, but she has courage and devotion to her father, whom she hasn't seen in years, since he was kidnapped by one of the Empire’s top henchman, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn wearing a cloak like a vampire.) Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) was Jyn’s childhood protector, but now, in fighting the Empire, she has Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Rebel officer, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) a Rebel pilot, and K-2SO (voice of Alan Tudyk) as a tall, skinny black robot who is as sarcastic as they come (must have been programmed by Don Rickles.)  Lead casting is everything here. The rest of the cast consists of storm troopers (always masked) and various representatives of alien races from fish to squid to you name it. This Galaxy has something for everyone. 

There are many captures, escapes (similar to other science fiction fantasy films), explosions and exotic scenery with hints of past civilizations. The space vessels are of various design and no one really sits down in this film.  They are always on the run. Acting is fine because no one really has to act as they don't have time.  Look serious, say your lines and then someone approaches so the main characters have to run to somewhere else. These are lean people. 

This story puts together a past for the very first film we saw in the 1970's, and then hands it over to the First Film people of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Chewbacca, R2 D2, C-3PO  and Carrie Fisher. “Rogue One’s” story is poignant, covers much territory, has familiar music themes and fans will be happy. Somewhere there is a safe universe, but it doesn't happen to be this one with the Empire on the march.



Copyright 2016 Marie Asner


For past "Star Wars" film reviews, see the following:


Clone Wars


Revenge of the Sith