Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first of two spin-offs to the Star Wars canon, this one placed inbetween the lacklustre Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and next Christmas’ Episode VIII. Episode IX will come at Christmas 2019, with a young Han Solo movie being released at the yuletide season inbetween… and I still think he should be played by Anthony Ingruber who was a dead ringer as a young Harrison Ford, and a highlight in the otherwise dreadful The Age of Adeline. But, unfortunately, I’ve not been given the job of casting that movie. Nor any other.
This year’s entry begins with Commander Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) stopping off at the Ring of Kafrene to force Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and his family to come with them and help build the Deathstar or, as Krennic calls it “become Heroes of the Empire”… but to them, they’ll be hostages. Luckily, daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones, or rather Beau Gadsdon, since the child version is in the movie’s early scenes) manages to escape so she can grow up to become part of the resistance, all in a bid to tracking down the plans for the planet-killing machine and destroying it big-time.
How does she know this is possible? Well, the explanation is brief, but if you don’t want to know anything at all beyond the above basics (and almost everything about the Star Wars movies is shrouded in secrecy prior to release), then skip the spoiler-tagged section below.
I could list all the places they go to, besides the one I’ve already mentioned and Imperial-occupied moon Jedah – one of the film’s main locations, but you know what Star Wars is like – they go from here, to there, to somewhere else, back again to one, some or all of them, and sometimes onto somewhere else before it ends.
Partnering Jyn in the ‘present day’ (as it were – well, the same era as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) is Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. You could say that she is ‘Princess Leia’ while he is ‘Han Solo’, but Leia was a bit drippy, and Jyn has far bigger balls than Cassian! They’re joined by Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus (who has a huge awesome weapon!), Donnie Yen as blind swordsman (and more adept than anyone else) Chirrut Îmwe, while Riz Ahmed is pilot Bodhi Rook, while Forest Whitaker is his usual grumpy self as Saw Gerrera. But I find I never remember (or even begin to learn) their character names while watching most fantasy movies, bar the leads.
However, can anyone tell me why does Jimmy Smits, as Bail Organa, have a set of darts in his top pocket? Not once does he suggest that you can’t beat a bit of Bully!
And did you stay for the post-credits scene where Jimmy Smits said: “Come and have a look at what you could’ve won”. And Jyn replies, “A bloody speedboat? You’re having a giraffe, aren’t you?”
Joking aside, while Felicity and Mads are always a great watch, no-one else really tries to flex their acting muscles. They’re never bad, but they’re never brilliant, either. But one actor in the cast DOES stand out from the crowd.
K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), the robot who flies the Rogue One spacecraft (thus making Riz Ahmed less the pilot and more the navigator) is hilarious – easily the best screen robot since Marvin The Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Full of sarcasm and bluntness of tone, I won’t repeating the many lines he comes out with, save for a couple, one being when they need to find a particular location. Cassian says they need to find a map, to which K-2SO replies, quick as a flash, “Well, I’m sure there’s one just lying around(!)”, and later when identifying a particular, necessary route to take, “There are 89 Stormstroopers in our path. I calculate we’ll get 33% of the way before we are killed”. His statistics about their chances of survival often infuriate the rest of them.
There were two other cast members of interest, but if you’re going to watch the movie, I suggest you avoid what’s beneath this spoiler heading. I certainly won’t list them in the credits, nor the tags.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story doesn’t really put a foot wrong, other than being about 15 minutes too long, but it is very predictable*, even though the majority of that aspect is still enjoyable. It’s a solid piece of entertainment. It won’t change the world, but it is worth the entrance fee. And, it is more consistent than The Force Awakens.
(*and not because it joins up with A New Hope, and thus, you know where the story is heading)
I saw the film in 3D and while it looked reasonable occasionally, I wouldn’t say it’s a must. A lot of the shots would work perfectly well in 2D due to basic perspective, and the fact that, like most films including its predecessor, it wasn’t shot in 3D – all the third dimension work was added in post-production. No doubt, like with The Force Awakens, Disney will put out 2D-only offerings for home viewing next April, saving the 3D Blu-ray for October, to make you buy it a second time.
In addition, there was nothing filmed in IMAX, but if you did see it in that format, then you’d benefit from the higher resolution (6.5K over 4K at Vue, although I say – just sit closer to the screen as I do, and it’ll still fill your field of vision), and you’ll also get all of the 12-track audio… although, it’s Star Wars – you get spaceships flying around you for two hours, and you know what they sound like. I’m not sure how many channels there are to be heard in Vue Lowry (I was in screen 1) but there’s plenty.
One thing Rogue One was missing, though? Well, last Christmas I was amazed that Disney had managed to even supress the opening lines of text from leaking out – you know, the ones tha accompany every Star Wars movie. And the same happened with this. And then I sat down to watch it. And there is NO passage of text to begin your experience. It just begins. Odd, sure, but then if this really is the very earliest moment in Star Wars history, what else is there to say? And if it isn’t, when will the next prequel to this prequel come out?
Something extra to the screening – as I was entering the cinema, I saw an orchestra being set up in the entrance which I understood would be performing some of the music from the Star Wars movies, including the Imperial March. I was hoping they’d still be there when I came out, but they’d long since packed up and gone home. There was a cameraman with them, so hopefully that’ll be online before long. And although it was obviously related to the cinema, it did still seem an odd place to set them up, because there’s a large audience of people in the food hall, just a few moments away, so surely it would be better to play to them and entice them into the cinema, rather than play to the occasional passer-by?
And for those following my end credit adventures, everything remains unchanged with the lights still coming up, at that point, way too bright and spilling onto the screen, thus covering up the credits and breaking the movie atmosphere. I’m still trying to discuss this with Vue’s Head Office who make this decision. They think end credits lights have to be brighter than pre-film lights during the trailers – by point of law with Manchester City Council, yet if the Odeon Trafford Centre can manage end credit lighting to be the same as the trailers, then Vue’s Head Office are clearly mistaken.
I’ve even pointed out the stance from Westminster Council, so I’m using that as a benchmark, I found on page 27: “The level of management lighting in the auditorium shall be as great as possible consistent with the effective presentation or exhibition of the pictures.”
Surely, with the lighting the way it is, this is not showing effective presentation or exhibition of the pictures.
As with Star Wars, the saga continues….
Book tickets for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at Vue Cinemas.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but in the meantime, click on the poster for the full-size version.
Running time: 134 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney
Cinema: Vue, Lowry, Salford Quays
Format: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (6.5K), Ultra Panavision 70 (anamorphic))
Released: December 15th 2016
Director: Gareth Edwards
Producers: Simon Emanuel, Kathleen Kennedy and Allison Shearmur
Screenplay: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy (based on a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the characters created by George Lucas)
Music: Michael Giacchino
Theme: John Williams
Jyn Erso: Felicity Jones
Cassian Andor: Diego Luna
K-2SO: Alan Tudyk
Chirrut Îmwe: Donnie Yen
Baze Malbus: Wen Jiang
Orson Krennic: Ben Mendelsohn
Saw Gerrera: Forest Whitaker
Bodhi Rook: Riz Ahmed
Galen Erso: Mads Mikkelsen
Bail Organa: Jimmy Smits
General Draven: Alistair Petrie
Mon Mothma: Genevieve O’Reilly
General Merrick: Ben Daniels
Admiral Raddus: Paul Kasey
Admiral Raddus (voice): Stephen Stanton
General Dodonna: Ian McElhinney
Senator Vaspar: Fares Fares
Senator Jebel: Jonathan Aris
Senator Pamlo: Sharon Duncan-Brewster
Darth Vader (voice): James Earl Jones
Lyra Erso: Valene Kane
Young Jyn: Beau Gadsdon
Younger Jyn: Dolly Gadson
Sergeant Melshi: Duncan Pow
Corporal Tonc: Jordan Stephens
Lieutenant Sefla: Babou Ceesay
Two Tubes: Aidan Cook
Tivik: Daniel Mays
General Hurst Romodi: Andy de la Tour
Captain Pterro: Tony Pitts
Vaneé: Martin Gordon
Rebel Tech: Eric MacLennan
Rebel Tech: Robin Pearce
Grizzly Rebel: Francis Magee
Rebel MP: Bronson Webb
Blue Three: Geraldine James
Blue Four: Ariyon Bakare
Blue Five: Simon Farnaby
Red Leader: Drewe Henley
Gold Leader: Angus MacInnes
Gold Nine: Gabby Wong
Red Twelve: Richard Glover
Blue Eight: Toby Hefferman
General Ramda: Richard Cunningham
Lieutenant Adema: Jack Roth
Admiral Gorin: Michael Gould
Lieutenant Casido: Rufus Wright
Weeteef Cyubee: Warwick Davis
C-3PO: Anthony Daniels
Princess Leia: Ingvild Deila
Darth Vader: Daniel Naprous, Spencer Wilding
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.