At The Movies: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

I think maybe I’m losing interest in Star Wars.

Probably not what Disney wants to hear. After all, they paid a pretty penny to buy the franchise from George Lucas, with plans to pump out new movies on a regular basis.

And that’s fine, but they really need to come up with new stories to tell without cannabalizing the original trilogy or they’re going to lose me. Not that it matters, of course. Disney could make a movie with a farting robot, slap the word “Star Wars” on it, and people would still line up for blocks to see it.

Which brings us to “Rogue One,” the first in a series of movies set in the Star Wars universe but not as part of the nine-film (Is it still nine?) space saga that Lucas launched in 1977.

We know this isn’t one of the “real” Star Wars movies because it doesn’t start off with John William’s rousing score, or a chapter heading, or that famous narrative scroll rolling out into infinity. But everything else is pure Star Wars.

Unless you’ve been living in the swamps of Dagobah, you know that the original “Star Wars” film is about how a group of rebels destroyed a moon-sized, planet-killing spaceship thanks to another group of rebels who stole the blueprints for that spaceship and got them to another spaceship where the plans were downloaded into a droid who had to escape the spaceship and wound up on a desert planet where he was bought by a farmer who’s adopted son would turn out to be a great Jedi knight and…well… just go watch the movie.

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6“Rogue One” tells the story of how that first group of rebels stole the blueprints for the Death Star (that’s the name of the moon-sized, planet-killing spaceship).

Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, a spunky loner who gets caught up in the rebellion against the Evil Galactic Empire — not to be confused with Rey, the spunky loner from the most recent Star Wars film.

Jyn is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), one of the architects of the Death Star. Galen had second thoughts about building a planet-destroying spaceball, so he left the project. He gets dragged back to finish the job, and in return he makes sure the Death Star has a tiny design flaw.

Jyn is joined in her rebellious ways by a multi-diverse cast (because this ain’t your father’s “Star Wars”) that includes Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), of rebel intelligence;  Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), former Imperial pilot now working for the other side; Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) as the guy with big guns; and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) as the blind warrior and closest thing to a Jedi this film has to offer.

And since you can’t have a Star Wars film without a droid, they’re joined by K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a former Imperial enforcer droid who switched sides once his mind was wiped by Andor. K-2SO is a welcome addition to the franchise, as he’s a droid who speaks English that isn’t C-3PO. He’s more sarcastic than prissy; more Jarvis than 3PO.

And since it’s tied so closely to the first film, you can expect appearances by certain Star Wars alums. Creepiest of them all has to be the return of Grand Moff Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing, who died in 1994. I shouldn’t be surprised that in a world where movie technology can make the old look young again or the young look very old, that the dead should come back to life. But just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should. Tarkin sounds like Cushing, and looks like him, but there’s something off about him. And the effect is chilling.

The movie runs a little over two hours with the first half spent introducing characters and moving them around, with lots of talking. The story gets to the point in the second half, as the rebels decide to steal the Death Star blueprints. But don’t come in expecting some kind of cleverly thought out heist. This is Star Wars, after all. Instead, they rehash the last half of “Return of the Jedi” (without the Ewoks and the lightsaber battle) with bits from the Luke-and-Han-and-Chewie-Rescue-The-Princess scene from the first film.

I get that almost everybody hates the prequel trilogy, but at least Lucas was doing different things. The people in charge of these new Star Wars films seem to feel like they have to keep remaking the originals but with a hip, new cast.

If you don’t mind the repetition, “Rogue One” will probably fill your Star Wars needs until the next installment. The special effects are still first-rate and the cast is engaging — just don’t get to attached.

 

 

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