Certificate 12A, 134 minutes
Director: Gareth Edwards
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, also known simply Rogue One, is the first spin-off film set in the Star Wars universe outside of the main sequence of films. It begins with an Imperial Shuttle descending to land on a ringed planet. A group of extremely jazzed-up Imperial Stormtroopers in black armour get out of the craft once it lands outside a farm, accompanying Imperial Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Prior to the landing, the three occupants of the farm, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), his wife Lyra (Valene Kane) and their young daughter Jyn (Beau Gadsdon) had made plans for if the Imperials came looking for Galen. Krennic wants Erso, a former Imperial Scientist, to return to help with a weapons project whose construction has stalled. The two would appear to have been friends once upon a time, before Galen had second thoughts about what he was actually doing.
Instead of fleeing with their daughter, Lyra returns and manages to get herself killed, instead of leaving with their daughter as had been originally planned. Galen accompanies Krennic to protect his daughter whilst Jyn successfully hides from the Stormtroopers, to be rescued by her father's friend, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker, Taken 3, The Last Stand) - a character who originally appeared in the Clone Wars animated series.
Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rogue_One,_A_Star_Wars_Story_poster.pngYears later, and a now-adult Jyn (Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything) is being held in an Imperial Labour Camp on the planet Wobani. A captain in Rebel intelligence, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), on the Ring of Kafrene trading post receives word that a cargo pilot has defected from the Empire with news that the Kyber crystals being collected for the Empire are going to be used in a new super weapon, a weapon capable of destroying planets. The pilot himself, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed, Jason Bourne, Nightcrawler), is on the Imperial-occupied moon of Jedha, where he is seeking Saw Gerrera to deliver a message to him from his old friend, Galen Erso.
Jyn is broken out of Imperial captivity by Rebel forces, including a reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Jyn is taken to the headquarters of the Rebel Alliance on Yavin 4 (a sight that will be familiar to those who have seen the original film). Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly), leader of the Rebel Alliance, wants Jyn's help, given her prior relationship with Saw. Gerrera and the rest of the Alliance are no longer on speaking terms; he has become far too extreme for them, as well as being rather the worse for wear and utterly paranoid - he believes the defector is a spy, and even Jyn at one point.
Jyn agrees to accompany Andor and K-260 to Jedha to get them a face to face with Gerrera. Jyn believes that the Rebellion plans to rescue her father, but Andor has orders to kill Galen, if they find him, on the orders of General Draven (Alistair Petrie). Jyn herself is rather disillusioned by the whole idea of the Rebellion, but events on Jedha change her mind. They also meet up with two former Guardians of the temple that the Empire is looting Kyber crystals from (crystals which apparently power the Jedi's lightsabers, and the temple itself was connected to the Jedi), the blind Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) - not that being blind has affected his ability to fight - and his friend Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang).
The super weapon under construction is, of course, the Death Star. Krennic is in charge of the project and Galen Erso is helping build it (it seems that the first Death Star took far longer to construct than the second, even if the second wasn't fully finished when it was destroyed). It is almost, but not quite, complete, and the thought of its power - even though the Emperor is denying the fact that it even exists to the Senate, the latter not yet being dissolved - worries the leaders of the Rebellion, many of whom are willing to surrender rather than be destroyed. In order to carry out the attack on the Death Star seen in Episode IV, the plans for its construction must first be stolen, to find the weakness that the majority (if not all) of the viewers know is there, and whose reason for existence is explained in the film. As a consequence, the majority of the film is set just prior to the events of A New Hope, and Jyn and her motley team, with the call sign Rogue One, are the ones who go to steal the plans.
The film is available in 2D and 3D with the 3D version being the one watched. With this being a live action film, there are parts where the 3D works and parts where it doesn't. The space battle scenes which occur later in the film, some of the views of Star Destroyers and the Death Star and the view inside a really, really big building with a really big drop inside it all work quite well. In the up close scenes that form the majority of the earlier parts of the film, the 3D is rather less noticeable. Still, it's worth watching in 3D for the battle between the Rebel Alliance fleet and the Imperials.
The most interesting character is probably the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO. Apparently, the reprogramming has given him a tendency to speak his mind (or, rather, his circuits). Which he does, often sarcastically and sometimes with an attitude problem, making him entertaining and sometimes funny to listen to - especially when he's being sarcastic whilst holding a live grenade which he has just caught. Several of the other characters, in particular Jyn, evolve over the course of the film, or seek redemption for their sometimes less than wonderful actions they have done.
There are a few old faces, and voices, who return in one form or another. Governor Tarkin - in this film not referred to by his original, slightly silly, title Grand Moff - was played in A New Hope by the late Peter Cushing. Using digital effects, Tarkin reappears in this film. The effects almost work, but there's an occasional fluctuation, when Tarkin's face doesn't seem quite right. He is not the only case where CGI has been used to bring back a character, but the other is too brief to see any errors - a single line. Jimmy Smits reprises his role as Senator Bail Organa, and Mon Mothma asks him to contact his Jedi friend, and there is a brief scene for C-3PO and R2-D2.
The biggest returning character is, of course, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in his first proper appearance since Return of the Jedi in 1983 (excluding the brief appearances at the end of Revenge of the Sith). He is initially seen in his stereotypical castle (the architectural equivalent of a giant flashing neon sign reading "DARK LORD LIVES HERE") on what looks like Mustafar, the lava-strewn planet on which Anakin Skywalker fought, and lost, the battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The film is fairly slow to really start to grip the viewer, but it eventually does so as events start heating up. This is not exactly the cheeriest film to watch - there are a lot of deaths and sacrifices as attempts are made to get the plans of the Death Star so that it can be destroyed, but it's building up to the events of A New Hope, so any sacrifices are known to have not been in vain. They will be successful, and the Death Star will be destroyed, even if many of those who made it possible will not be around to see it. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gradually builds up the tension and the action, but it's quite gripping by the end, and this is a promising start to the Star Wars spin-off films.