Directed by George Lucas and Gareth Edwards
Film Review by Nicholas Haberling
A long time ago in the year 1977 one of the greatest films ever made was released: Star Wars. The film captured the imagination of audiences around the world with its beloved characters, special effects, and memorable scenes. One such scene is the World War II style dogfight we see above the trenches of the dreaded Death Star as the Rebel Alliance desperately tries to destroy the moon-sized battle station. The attack succeeds and the Rebels destroy the Death Star by firing a proton torpedo down a shaft leading to the reactor core. While an incredible victory for our heroes, many Star Wars fans, myself included, have always wondered why the Empire wasn’t aware of the Death Star’s fatal flaw prior to the battle. Thirty-nine years later long-time fans, and younger ones such as myself, finally got an answer in the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While an excellent film in its own right I felt in order to get the true Star Wars experience I needed to watch Rogue One and A New Hope back-to-back.
Rogue One tells the story of a team of Rebel spies sent to kill or capture an Imperial scientist which then transitions into a mission to steal the plans for the Empire’s superweapon: the Death Star. A few minutes into the film we meet an adult Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of the Imperial scientist in question, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson). Since Jyn is not a bona fide Rebel at the start of the film, she is joined by intelligence operative Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his sidekick K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). On the planet Jedha the trio are joined by the Force sensitive monk Chirrut Îmwe (Chirrut Îmwe), weapon expert Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Throughout our main cast’s planet hopping adventure we see glimpses of the Empire’s power politics as Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) attempts to regain control of the Death Star project from the greedy ambitions of Grand Moff Tarkin. Eventually there is a major battle between the Empire and Rebel Alliance which directly leads to the opening of Episode IV.
With a near seamless transition to A New Hope we begin with the familiar sight of Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer chasing the Tantive IV. As Stormtroopers infiltrate the Rebel ship, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) transfers the Death Star plans to R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) who escapes to the surface of Tatooine with his companion C3PO (Anthony Daniels). R2-D2 and C3PO soon find themselves in the custody of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), but R2 escapes to continue his search for a mysterious Obi-Wan Kenobi. Shenanigans ensue and it is eventually revealed that a local named Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness) is actually the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi that R2 was looking for. After the tragic death of his aunt and uncle, Luke then agrees to travel with Obi-Wan to Alderaan in order assist the Rebel Alliance and train as a Jedi. From here our adventures begins to pick up as our ensemble cast nears completion with the addition of the dashing scoundrel Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his furry co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). As the Millennium Falcon blasts off into space we take our first steps alongside Luke into a larger galaxy as we witness the rescue of a Princess and the diabolical schemes of the Empire led by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) and Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones).
Rogue One’s cast is filled with top notch actors from a variety of backgrounds. However, the number of characters gives little time for any individual to truly shine which leaves most of them relatively static. Perhaps that is okay. But for me, especially with a Star Wars film, I want to feel a connection to the characters the film is centered around. Because of that lack of connection I don’t think the sacrifices the characters in Rogue One made carried as much weight as they could have.
It is very difficult to be objective when reviewing A New Hope so I won’t even try. While Rogue One has higher quality actors, A New Hope’s story allows its characters to transcend the initial talent of its core cast. Throughout the events of the film we see Luke as the center of gravity with the other characters playing a role in his story. Princess Leia acts as the catalyst for the film’s events, Old Ben is the wise mentor who understands when it is time to step off the stage, and Han Solo is ultimately a rogue with a conscience. Of course we can’t forget Chewbacca and our favorite droid duo. And those are just the heroes! A New Hope also has unforgettable villains such as Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin.
My initial review of Rogue One after I saw it in theaters was negative. After re-watching it a couple of times in the comfort of my home I’ve accepted the film for what it is rather than what I wanted it to be. With that in mind, on its own Rogue One is a solid 8/10. But Rogue One fits seamlessly into Episode IV so the two films are begging to be viewed consecutively. The combined viewing of Rogue One and the masterpiece that is A New Hope yields a combined 9/10 score. If you have a spare five hours I highly recommend this film combination.