After viewing Rogue One, a prequel to George Lucas’ original trilogy, you might find yourself wanting to binge watch the first three films. Rogue One fills in the blanks, specifically how the Rebel Alliance learned about the Empire’s Death Star. Without giving anything away, we know that Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker, eventually help to destroy that weapon of mass destruction. Now we learn the backstory, namely the identity of the scientist who helped to create the Death Star and how the Rebel Alliance exploited the design flaw that left the device vulnerable to destruction.
Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, K-250 (voiced by Alan Tudyk)
There’s a world of difference, however, between the first three films and Rogue One. While all are rated PG-13, younger children may find Rogue One’s action too violent and intense and both the heroes and villains a little scary. (The director, Gareth Edwards directed Godzilla.) There are no Muppet-like aliens that once populated the venues visited by Han Solo and his crew. While the new characters in Rogue One are engaging, it remains a challenge to top the original cast, particularly because after last December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they remain fresh in our minds.
Felicity Jones, last seen running around Italy with Tom Hanks in Inferno, is Rogue One’s female lead. Her Jyn Erso is every bit as brave and smart as The Force Awaken’s Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. Jyn’s story serves as the film’s centerpiece. As a child, she watches while her mother is killed and her scientist father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), is taken away by an Imperial force led by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). The Empire needs Galen to finish the Death Star. The young Jyn flees to a pre-arranged hiding place where she is rescued by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
While Jyn has a vague memory of her father being captured, rumor has it that he has gone over to the dark side. But when she’s shown a hologram of her father speaking to her, she learns that he is being coerced into working for the Empire. He’s managed to program into the Death Star a weakness that can be exploited. The organized Rebel Alliance, led by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) and Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) doubts Jyn’s story. (Blink and you’ll miss Smits appearance, it’s so brief.) However, a rag-tag group of fighters enlists to help Jyn find her father.
Jyn’s new crew is certainly diverse. We have the leader, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a very tall droid, K-250 (voiced by Alan Tudyk he gets all of the film’s best lines), a blind swordsman (Donnie Yen), a warrior (Jiang Wen), and Riz Ahmed, as a pilot who defected to help the Rebellion. Once the organized Rebellion realizes Jyn’s group has a chance to succeed, the much-needed air support arrives. The battle scenes are exciting, although the demise of some characters may be upsetting to younger viewers.
Darth Vader, once again voiced by James Earl Jones, makes an appearance towards the end in a scene that sets the stage for what is to come next. While Jones’ voice delivered the expected jolt, it was nowhere near as shocking as the appearance on screen of Peter Cushing, who died in 1994, and was resurrected courtesy of CGI as the Imperial leader Grand Moff Tarkin. (There was an audible gasp from the preview audience at my screening.)
While the Lucas prequels failed to catch fire with fans, Rogue One should live up to expectations. Connecting it so closely to the trilogy works in its favor. And the musical score, from Michael Giacchino, includes enough of John Williams’ original themes that audiences will certainly tap into memories of all those galaxies that came before.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.