Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a very impressive film. Once again, the skill that Disney has in telling stories is very evident. The acting is good and urgent throughout. And the characters are strong enough to keep the film from being a soulless action-packed exercise.
The story starts with a good pace and sense of foreboding. Jyn Erso is a character that doesn’t care too much for any heroic purpose, unlike Luke Skywalker. It is refreshing to see a character that doesn’t want to get sucked into the very dramatic events of Star Wars, but cares instead for her own survival and for her parents.
Of course, Jyn grows up, and she resists getting involved in the war at first, but eventually finds a spirit to fight back against the Empire and lead a pack of Rebels. This is genius character development because we see all the human, realistic characteristics of someone growing up and getting involved in a war that wasn’t of their choosing, and then slowly find that spark inside to fight for what’s right.
The action sequences are epic and exciting, and the special effects and CGI dazzling, but the decision to use CGI for one of the Empire’s top brass was, while not that bad, still not an inspired choice as it quite noticeable that this wasn’t a real actor acting. It ruined my suspension of disbelief any time the character was in a scene. I suppose it wasn’t that bad because the emotions that the character showed in previous Star Wars films weren’t quite difficult to render (sternness, seriousness and curtness), and perhaps this character was already central to the story because of the content of the three Star Wars films that chronologically follow this prequel.
The film has some poignancy to it, and Cassian Andor, one of the Rebels, is ruthless to help the Rebellion, and at another point that same character tells Jyn and other Rebels that all of the Rebels around him did bad things to further the cause of defeating the Empire, which to me signals that the Star Wars films of this era are more mature and realistic. The film makes it perfectly clear to us that this is a war, lots of people are going to die for different reasons and reasons that are not good ones in a black and white way, but rather in a way that highlights the grey areas of fighting a war morally. This is a big change of tone for the Star Wars Universe. It is probably because people demand grittier and more true to life entertainment nowadays, and in this way it highlights the madness of war, even if war is needed to protect people and to combat malevolent forces. It is also something that has sown inconsistency in the narrative of Star Wars. If one were to watch Episodes IV to VI, after watching this film, they may be jarringly simplistic and lacking in honesty.
However, overall this film deserves a nine out of ten for it’s good acting, thrilling action sequences and good character development. The reason it doesn’t get a ten out of ten is because there is so much action in the film, which inhibits character development, and thus it is hard to care a whole lot about the characters in the story, even if you care about the cause and the values of the heroes.