Rogue One is the first film in the Star Wars Anthology series and is set immediately before the events of A New Hope. It is the first live-action Star Wars film to feature neither an episode number nor an opening crawl.
The story opens with research scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) hiding on planet Lah’mu when Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) arrives to take him against his will to complete the unfinished Death Star, a space station-based superweapon capable of destroying an entire planet. Erso’s wife Lyra is killed during the confrontation but their daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones) escapes and is taken to safety by Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
Fast forward fifteen years later and cargo pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) deflects from the Empire, smuggling a holographic message from Galen to Gerrera on the desert moon Jedha. On hearing of Rook’s defection, Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) frees Jyn from Imperial captivity and brings her to the Rebels, who plan to use her to extract Galen and learn more about the Death Star.
Believing that Gerrera might bring her closer to finding her estranged father, Jyn agrees to aid the Rebels. When their search for Gerrera reveals that Galen had secretly built a vulnerability into the Death Star, Jyn proposes a plan to steal the Death Star schematics and sets out with a small squad of Rebels on a mission to get revenge on the man responsible for tearing her family apart.
Director Gareth Edwards is given the task of making a blockbuster movie away from the safety blanket of Han, Leia and Luke and he does so with aplomb. Rogue One is a thrilling ride with beautiful visuals, action set-pieces, likeable characters and fun nods for viewers at all levels of the Star Wars fandom.
Rogue One proves that a Skywalker is not essential for a Star Wars movie to work away from the main saga and whilst it remains respectful to the source material it also manages to feel very different from the movies that have come before.
The franchise’s greatest strength has always been its characters and this film is no exception.
Jyn Erso is a strong likeable lead whose side story within the larger saga smacks an emotional punch for viewers.
The remaining members of Rogue One are equally effective. Cassian and Bodhi along with former Jedha temple guards Chirrut Imwe (Jiang Wen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) are all given moments of humour and heroism though it is Cassian’s droid co-pilot K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) that steals all the scenes he appears in.
Orson Krennic makes a fitting villain for the Erso family story but he is mostly reduced to threatening conversations meaning he won’t go down as one of the most memorable Star Wars villains to date.
Rogue One is a great success which should ensure the long-term future of the franchise. The film has been able to delve right back into the history of Star Wars whilst adding real value to future events in the saga. Longtime fans should also be happy with the inclusion of some surprise appearances.
It will be interesting to see where Episode VIII takes us next!