Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Review (*** 1/2)

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Nowhere near as bad as all that re-shoot talk may have had you believe nor as great as you undoubtedly want it to be, Rogue One is an entertaining if disappointingly workmanlike addition to the Star Wars franchise, a further indicator of how (mostly) safe Disney are likely to be with the property moving forward.

When rogue Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is freed from Empire incarceration, the Rebels charge her with a mission, to help a ragtag team retrieve the plans to the super-weapon known as the Death Star, overseen by Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).

Mounted as a prequel to A New Hope, Rogue One is mostly successful, if often uninspired in how it spools out fanboy-baiting references for some easy nostalgic glee, while wrapping around it a fairly standard planet-hopping sci-fi heist narrative which touches the usual beats you’d expect from a Star Wars movie, albeit with a little more darkness than usual.

It’s certainly clear that Edwards film has been hacked up a little in post-production; the first half of the movie jumps around in fidgety fashion and Edwards rarely lingers on images as long as he should, while characterisation feels all over the place, with barely any of the team of rogues, played by marvelous actors such as Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk (in robot form) and Riz Ahmed, feeling sufficiently fleshed out.

Jones especially suffers here, failing to make much out of her protagonist and possibly being miscast. In other roles, Mendelsohn is a fun foil, while Mads Mikkelsen provides solid support as Jyn’s father Galen. Forest Whitaker, meanwhile, barely touches the sides as dangerous – and howlingly over-acted – rebel Saw Gerrera.

While last year’s The Force Awakens did a fantastic job with its new characters despite cribbing too much from A New Hope, Rogue One feels a little less reliant on series formula but makes its focal droid feel more human than the actual bloodbags themselves. The CGI recreations of franchise icons are also unfortunately not up to standard, with one of them having a surprisingly large role in the film.

Action is fine for the most part but not particularly memorable, at least until the film’s climactic moments. Edwards is clearly much more comfortable in slower, more subtle action storytelling, and so an intergalactic war film honestly feels like a strange fit for him.

Still, it’s miles ahead of the prequels even if it falls short of the originals and The Force Awakens. Rogue One settles for being a good, fun action film with beautiful cinematography and mostly-compelling acting that reaffirms Disney’s philosophy for the future, both for better and for worse. 

*** 1/2

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in cinemas now

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