Good films are built on hope...

Please note the review below may contain minor spoilers - I've done my best to keep them to a minimum.

After continuing the Star Wars saga last year with Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Disney are opting for a different tact this year, of a standalone story with Gareth Edwards (known for Godzilla) at the directorial helm and a team of writers in his wake. So how does this latest effort, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stack up in the sci-fi pantheon?

Instantly rebuking the legacy of Star Wars by being the first film to omit an opening crawl, Rogue One opens with an Imperial shuttle speeding towards a planet below. On said planet are Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and his family, currently in hiding - well until five minutes ago.

Knowing who is on the shuttle (Orson Krennic played by Ben Mendelsohn) and why heís here for him, Galenís wife Lyra (Valene Kane) acknowledges their plight and with a nod sets afoot an obviously well rehearsed plan knowing that this day would surely come. A plan that involves hiding within the 5 feet patch of grass behind their house before springing up to confront your would be captors and getting yourself needlessly killed - go figure. With Galen taken by his Imperial captors, Jyn, his daughter is left behind to fend for herself.

Now several years later, Jyn Ersso (Felicity Jones) is all grown up and seemingly a rebellious orphan - but honestly who isnít at this point in the Star Wars universe. After being freed from her Imperial shackles by Rebel fighters, Jyn is taken to the Rebel headquarters and informed of her father's work on a fabled planet-destroying weapon.

Given no choice but to join up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his loose lipped sidekick of a robot designated K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), the trio begin their mission into first seeking out hardened rebel leader and Immortan Joe wannabe Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and then hopefully finding out more about her father's fate and his weapon.

I have to say Rogue One: A Star Wars Story got off to a shaky start, with a downright atrocious first act that meanders more than a Jason Bourne film - and that was before realising the writer of the aforementioned spy franchise, is in fact one of the multitude of writers tasked to Rogue One - requiring you to have the Star Wars Encyclopedia handy, to figure out where the heck you are exactly in this universe. Itís not solid storytelling and ingrains the feeling of being constantly on the move with the viewer, never establishing any concrete locations nor does it invest you into any of the characters or their motivations, itís a real mis step compared to the much better film that emanates from it.

Thankfully once the channel swapping gets out of the way, and the actual rogues gallery team up, the film works, and the action along with the stakes ramp up for some satisfying Star Wars viewing. Whilst the forgone conclusion of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is already set in stone at this point, how the writers go about getting to that story milestone has clearly been something of an issue. I mean why else would you need four different writers on the same project? And it clearly shows in the end product, with some downright nonsensical plot offerings that donít sit well within the world and the new cast of characters which have been ushered into existence here, and any lingering upon them destroys the entire illusion set forth. But alas, thereís a destination we must arrive at and youíll enjoy the somewhat bumpy ride in getting there.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - (Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Riz Ahmed and Ben Mendelsohn)

Speaking of universes, the one created within Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is an interesting one. With excellent CG and a whole range of both puppetry and digital monsters populating it alike. Though it does tend to lean heavily on the fan service side of things, with cameos from now infamous - if insignificant - characters of old somehow stumbling into our new cast akin to a serendipitous Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels script and a multitude of scenes laced with obvious nods to the films of old. What canít be forgiven though is including some of those old cast of characters in CGI form. It completely takes you out of the experience, with them being on the verge of the uncanny valley it leaves you questioning that there were surely better ways of accomplishing the same task that didnít completely take you out of the experience.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is also now the second film in this re-energised franchise whose best character is once again a robot. With K-2SO being the laughter balance of the film - clearly a humour-invasion seeping in from Disneyís Marvel property - that happily works very well within Rogue One, though it does tend to say a lot about the human characters within these modern Star Wars offerings. And on the other side of things we have that much talked about Darth Vader cameo, who is once again voiced by the stalwart James Earl Jones but this time embodied by Spencer Wilding. All I will say on that, though brief itís quite epic viewing, and worthy of admission alone for Star Wars fans.

Another year and another Star Wars film, whilst Rogue One: A Star Wars Story doesnít quite feel like the big budget fanfiction that was The Force Awakens, Rogue One has plenty script problems of its own. With a sketchy first act that does little to enthrall you and the employment of some garish CG characters of old that will have you questioning the filmmakers decision making process.

But once Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does get going itís an enjoyable ride, with plenty of action and a few laughs to be had with a Darth Vader cameo that is sure to satiate Star Wars fans - though just donít pry on any of the plot threads, lest it all come undone.

  • Review by
    David Robinson

    Twitter: @5ypher

    Posted on
    15th December 2016

  • 3 Out of 5 Stars
  • Horrendous first act

    Little too much fan service

    Odd CG role reprisals

  • Darth Vader

    Universe and creatures

    K-2SO, comedy machine

    Enjoyable, if known journey

Film Info

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rating: 12A
Release Date: 15th December
Runtime: 2 hr 14 mins
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk & Donnie Yen

  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Yes, whilst there is plenty of death, destruction there's very little if any blood and or gore.

The Rebel base at Yavin IV features several full-sized cardboard cut-outs of X-Wings and Y-Wing fighters, using the same technique of filling out the hangar as in the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.

This is the first installment in the Star Wars: Anthology series.

Alan Tudyk also previously played the robot character Sonny in I, Robot.