Film Review

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016). Non-Spoiler Review.

I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.

In the few days since Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing, seeing this insert into the Star Wars Canon was at once joyous and sincerely nostalgic. The narrative has a lot of conventions fans of the scene will be familiar with, bringing back universe icons such as the android duo C3PO and R2D2 and even resurrecting the monochromatic goliath of Darth Vader. The poster for the film gives speculative audiences all of the information they need: the Light and Dark sides of the Force manifest themselves in the bifold division of white and black, while our central characters are headed by a stoic looking Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). A looming Darth Vader oversees AT-AT walkers, Storm Troopers, Destroyers and TIE Fighters. The might of the Empire against the band of rogues presents the central theme of the film: the Mighty versus the Humble, and we all know how that story goes…

Poster from imdb.com, ©LucasFilm

I’ve heard many different responses to this film. The vast majority sing its praises, often waxing lyrical about the Final Act of the film when the action really kicks off. Some have suggested that the narrative is divided between the set up and the action, and to a certain extent I agree: the establishing moments of the film set the scene, introduce us to the prime movers and shakers of the narrative, and present the dominant aesthetic trend of grit and grime. Speed seems to be the theme, and we are rushed around all of the known galaxies from planet to planet. The scenes are dark, enclosed and rushed, never really allowing the audience to be still and soak up the details. The headlong rush between scenes, planets and time-frames gives us a glimpse into the hurtling momentum of the story from the point of view of our character informants.

Once the narrative has been established, the claustrophobic atmosphere seems to relax, spreading the inframe content to include sweeping landscapes of sand-blasted dunes, and sprawling interstellar scenes which knock the wind from our lungs and situate us firmly in a galaxy far, far away. There’s also something rather thrilling about seeing the iconic “That’s-No-Moon!” spherical silhouette of the Death Star in glorious and big screen high definition. The combination of spine-tingling orchestral soundtrack set against the might of the planet destroying goliath was a delight every time.

Still from imdb.com, ©LucasFilm

It’s hard to provide spoilers about the outcome of this film if people have any prior awareness of the classic Canon, but the intricacies of the narrative are suitably convention typified for an action/war film hybrid.

It’s dark, it’s gritty and it has a high death count: the combative action sequences strike an artistic balance between viscerality and spectacle. Human mortality strikes a poignant contrast against the sheer mass of Empire forces, continuing the device of cheering for the under powered and trodden on Rebellion. But humour is never far away if the scene treads a line too dark for its 12A certificate: comedic side-characters bring the narrative towards an optimistic conclusion, rather than saturating our speculations with the gloom of oppression, tyranny or elitist dicatorships.

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016) is in cinemas now.

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