With the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the third coming of the Star Wars saga has broken the prequel curse placed on the franchise by creator George Lucas. And although none of the marketing for this movie ever used the P-word to describe it, the chronological setting, in advance of the events of the original Star Wars (later subtitled A New Hope), does indeed make the film a prequel. While this film does not reclaim the high-water mark Star Wars established with The Empire Strikes Back, it does prove that the new crop of producers are not likely to sink to the depths of Episodes One through Three.
Rogue One is the story of a McGuffin, those original Death Star plans that Princess Leia sent down to Tatooine inside the memory banks of R2D2 at the beginning of Star Wars, an event that pulled a farm boy named Luke and a retired Jedi named Obi Wan into the rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire. This film tells the story of how those plans were stolen in the first place. Jyn Erso (Felicty Jones), a criminal of some sort who was separated from her parents at a young age (when her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), was forcefully recruited into the Empire’s Death Star project), is sprung from an imperial prison by the rebels and recruited into a mission to find her father. The rebels want some information on a rumored new super-weapon that the Empire is about to deploy. Some of them also want Galen dead for his role in the development of this weapon, but they don’t tell Jyn that. The path to the plans lead through a rebel extremist (and Jyn’s former guardian) named Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker), a rain soaked Imperial Base, and finally a planet that looks like Hawaii. We know somewhat how the story will end, because Star Wars.
Rogue One has the redeeming quality of being fairly smart for a Star Wars movie, much smarter than last year’s The Force Awakens, which treated the concepts of both space and time with singular contempt. Sure, it is still a space fantasy, but at least it all makes sense within the context of the Star Wars universe. Rogue One focuses more on the war aspect of Star Wars, and features harrowing sequences of ground, air, and space combat. The film introduces us to a whole cast of new characters, but fails to develop them significantly. For all of the dumbness and repetition, at least The Force Awakens had heart. There is a lot of fan service in Rogue One, and some of it may be pointless, but it wouldn’t have been a problem if the characters had been developed better. But for anyone who is a fan of the series, or just enjoys a good science fiction adventure, Rogue One provides plenty of entertainment. B