REVIEW: Rogue One (2016)

 rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_posterUK Rating: 12A

Release Date: 15th December 2016

Running Time: 134 minutes

Director: Gareth Edwards

Genre:  Sci-fi, Action

Starring: Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn

So, I was quite sceptical about this when I first heard about it. For one thing, the posters and trailers brought the expression, ‘Star Wars does The Hunger Games,’ inescapably to mind. But I was still excited to see it.

I was very favourably surprised. Last Christmas, I enjoyed watching ‘The Force Awakens’ in the cinema with my family, but I couldn’t honestly say I thought it was a terribly good film. In fact, I have to admit that one year on, I can’t remember most of it, which is never a good sign. ‘Rogue One’ is very much the better film, in my opinion. In fact, Rogue One is a pretty good film.

Although it has over eight stars on IMDB (so most people agree with me) some people do seem to be hating it. They seem to be divided into three groups:

  • People who hate it because the heroine is… well, a heroine, not a hero.
  • People who hate the fact that there aren’t any American white male protagonists in the film. Which I have to say I totally failed to notice whilst watching. I mean, why does it matter?
  • People who hate the ending.

Now, the third category have a more valid point. I don’t agree, but I can understand why some people may not like it. I really can’t specify what it is about the ending without giving a total spoiler, so I’ll just say I found it refreshing, and realistic, and felt it fits with and flows very well into the next (chronological) film, ‘A New Hope’ (the very first film to be made).

There is also a moment of absolutely wonderful poetic justice at the end, in the way in which the main villain receives his come-uppance. Obviously, I’d rather he’d repented, but all the same… 🙂

The film has a large and diverse cast of characters, including a blind man who is some kind of former Jedi/monk. The Force stuff takes on somewhat Buddhist overtones in this film, sadly, but it’s not particularly overt. There is a lot of fighting, but it’s bloodless.

However, the male protagonist, Cassian, commits a terrible crime in the very first scene in which we see him. This was important when it came to my reaction to the ending but I think it was actually potentially easy to miss, or to misunderstand what happened. So if you’re thinking, ‘Who shot the guy?’ yes, I’m afraid it was Cassian. And that’s shocking. Why will be clear if you see the film. There’s a tendency in films—and life—nowadays, to think that in a good cause, evil actions are okay. It’s a grave ethical error and the proliferation of this idea is deeply harmful to our society. Fortunately, in this film, although the fact that it is not morally permissible to commit an evil action even to attain a good result is not made as explicit as it should be, overall there is at least an emphasis on redemption, which carries the implicit message that what has been done is wrong, no matter what it was done for.

I would hesitate to say there is a full-out ‘romance’ in the film, but there is a very satisfying thread of refreshingly pure romantic feeling which is nice to see.

On a more technical note, the benefits of CGI are very visible in this film. First film made in the 70s, want to have the same character but, uh-oh, the actor’s now dead? No problem. Just CGI the character in. If I hadn’t known it couldn’t be the actor in question, I might not even have noticed! (I’ll leave the ethical discussion of this to someone else!) Anyway, Princess Leia even makes a brief appearance right at the close—and the audience clapped as the film ended. Because of Leia, or because they just really liked the film? Not sure, but it was charming!

Overall: I think this may well be one for my shelf.

Sex/Violence/Profanity: No sexual content. Lots of bloodless violence. No profanities. Probably not for younger children, though.

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