Rogue One takes a spin to the Dark Side

I had the privilege to catch the latest spin-off of the Star Wars Universe earlier today. To my surprise, it turned out pretty well. Consider this a fair warning to readers that spoilers will follow.
A Grim Story
The most important thing I took out of all the mayhem that ensued in the film was that the franchise was now ready to venture into the Dark (excuse the pun) Sides of the franchise. Writers John Knoll and Gary Whitta are willing to put the horrors of war in the forefront of the film instead of masking them behind a family drama. People fight, people die. And the survivors are scarred both physically and mentally, even when they do not have the luxury of time to grieve.
A messy start
It is difficult to ignore the fact that the first half hour of the film seemed awfully paced. The film felt like it was snipped, stitched and taped together while it struggled to find its pacing. It was almost as if Director Gareth Edwards wasn’t sure if he should speed past the scene or to give it enough space for viewers to take in.
A Rebellion or a Terrorist move?
Sometimes it’s really difficult to tell the difference as we witness Saw Gerra’s men set off explosives in a seemingly peaceful city just to disrupt the Empire’s operations mining Kaiber crystals. I have a feeling that the scene may strike a little closer to home in these tumultuous times.
A nostalgia trip
Edwards spares no time in making sure we are right at home in the Expanded Universe of Star Wars. Die-hard fans of the franchise will be familiar with the dirty and rugged equipment that the Rebel Alliance have as well as the clean, well-lit halls of the Empire’s ships.
With notable appearances of key characters such as Bail Organa, Mon Mothma and even Tarkin, long-time viewers can now piece together several missing pieces from the long time-jump between Episode 3 and 4.
Even the brief appearance of Darth Vader was a pleasant reminder of why we were all so afraid of him in the first place. I mean, did you see him mow past an entire platoon of rebel troopers?
I found myself tearing up in nostalgia in the Final Act as we had the X-Wings face off against TIE-Fighters in space while Rogue One had their own “Moon of Endor”-esque battle. It was nice to watch as our pseudo-Ackbar led the Rebels into a losing battle with the sole purpose of retrieving the only hope for the Rebel Alliance’s survival.
Unfamiliar tunes I am, however, still not sold on the soundtrack that is not John Williams. Don’t get me wrong, Michael Giacchino puts a decent spin on fan-favourite themes most of the time, but it seems to go way off especially in scenes that are supposed to be more nostalgic in nature.
A spicy Rogue One crew
I do applaud Edwards for trying new things, especially since we were stuck with the next best thing to a Jedi; a blind Force-sensitive and his trusty yet forgettable sidekick.
Felicity Jones and Alan Tudyk sold their lovable roles as Jyn and K-2SO very well. However, I struggled to put up with the performances of Cassian and Saw. Especially Saw. Watching Forest Whittaker struggle to play as an extremist terrorist with incoherent thoughts was just possibly the most frustrating thing the entire film had to offer.
Riz Ahmed’s performance as the former imperial pilot was almost as frustrating. There were so many times where I suspected that he would betray the team somewhat from his facial expressions. But if that was on purpose, I guess Ahmed did a good job keeping us wondering.
A solid addition
All in all, Rogue One was a good film that helped fill in several gaping holes that the void between Episode 3 and 4 left behind. It was not afraid to have even the main characters dabble in a little bit of murder before stepping into the light. And it did not fail to portray the message that War is indeed Hell.
I give Star Wars Episode 3.5 a 3.5/5.
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