For the full Movie Bears Podcast review of ‘Rogue One’ (as well as our 4 year anniversary celebration), check out the video below! Or read on for our mini-review…
Let’s get something out of the way upfront: ‘Rogue One’ isn’t the ‘Star Wars’ you’re used to. From the opening beats to a finale full of heroic feats, the film works to set itself apart from what’s come before while still paying homage to it. ‘Rogue One’ isn’t about the Skywalker saga – at least, not in any direct way – and while the Force is mentioned and (spoiler alert) briefly seen in action, 99.5% of this Star Wars movie has nothing to do with the Jedi.
Instead, the focus is on the brutal, boots-on-the-ground conflict between the Empire and the Rebellion. There are some space battles, too, but where ‘Rogue One’ really shines is in its ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’-esque sequences. Because this is Star Wars, though, it’s not enough to have Normandy-style beach storming and simple midnight captures. There have to be giant vehicles sputtering blaster fire and plenty of daring do hundreds of stories in the air. These elements work and work well, making you believe that there is, in fact, a very nasty civil war taking place.
Not that the original trilogy fails to do the same: with the Death Star blowing up Alderaan, we certainly get the sense that rebellion will not be tolerated. But in grounding ‘Rogue One’ so thoroughly in guerrilla-style conflict without the help of any mystical Jedi, the battles feel real. The stakes are real, too, and while we know how this story ultimately turns out (the plans are safely delivered to Princess Leia’s ship as per ‘A New Hope’), it’s heart wrenching to see how it all plays out.
Unfortunately, while the story and action sequences are quite good in and of themselves, the lead performances aren’t great. Felicity Jones never quite sells us on her rebellious, loner-chick act and Diego Luna’s lack of charisma makes it hard to latch onto and care about his character. Thankfully the supporting cast evens that out a bit. Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen are a fun pairing and Mads Mikkelsen does a great job in portraying a conflicted father trying to do the right thing. The best performance, however, comes from Alan Tudyk, who plays K-2SO, the droid with a heart of re-programmed comedy gold.
‘Rogue One’ is absolutely worth a watch but it’s best to tamper down any expectations you might have and try to enjoy the film as it was intended: as a standalone movie only, devoid of sweeping consequences beyond the setup for ‘A New Hope.’ If you can do that, your experience will be a much better one for it.
Written by Brad Harris, Movie Bears Podcast.