Words don’t ring truer than what Jyn Erso said. (Don’t worry it’s not a spoiler, it was in the trailers.) If you are familiar with Star Wars and the first film, A New Hope, you understand that for many of us, it all started there. When I think of Star Wars, I can’t help but think that George Lucas had no inkling what it would become (so much so that he gave us the horrible prequels). It is more than a phenomenon or something only seen and spoken of at Comic-Con. There is nothing like Star Wars because there is no entertainment franchise that has garnered the following that Star Wars has. Now, with the financial resources of Disney, Lucasfilm is ushering new stories, not just in the present (Force Awakens), but touching on the hope that fans will enjoy some standalone films that bring us to the past.
Enter Rogue One, the first standalone film in the Star Wars franchise that aims to break the mold and carving its own name in the vast universe. If you are familiar with Star Wars: A New Hope, then you know how this film will end, but it’s the journey of the film and the characters that will definitely leave you at the edge of your seat for 2+ hours. We know from New Hope that the Rebel Alliance stole the plans of the infamous Death Star, and with those plans they were able to find the weakness and destroy it. Though briefly mentioned, Rogue One is the story of the brave group of rebels who went behind enemy lines and against all odds to bring hope to a near broken alliance. This is their story “DUN DUN” (sorry, Law & Order reference felt appropriate).
Rogue One is a little of what we have loved of the Star Wars franchise while also being completely different. It is grand in scale, but yet grounded and centralized, and I think that is what makes it such a great film. If you heard that it’s the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back, that is very accurate. Empire still ranks as my all-time favorite, but Rogue One is now a very close second. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a remarkable and strong character. In a franchise that very well pioneered the strong female heroine (make no bones about it, Leia was more than just a love-struck princess), Erso follows in the footsteps of Leia, Amidala, Ahsoka, and Rey in ushering a new hero that doesn’t require a love interest or to be sexualized (we’ll forgive slave Leia for now) to be popular. I think, much like Rey, that Jyn will become quite the popular heroine, and rightfully so. Throughout the film, she shows strength, vulnerability, compassion, leadership, and a bravery that outshines all.
As the latest droid entry (who by the way was a great and hilarious addition) K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) says, “Jyn Erso, your behavior continues to defy expectations” (I don’t quite remember exactly, but it was in those lines). This is what makes Jyn stand out, and why she can have people willing to follow her, and even disobey orders. She personified what the rebellion was all about, hope. She wasn’t a Jedi (they weren’t back yet) but she made a greater impact in this moment. Around her was a great cast that inspired you all the while you saw them develop into true heroes.
Rogue One is also very much filled with little (and some big) Easter eggs and cameos that will make any Star Wars fan excited to see. Whether you are a fan of just the movies, or a fan of some of the animated series (look out for a certain Rebels ship), you are sure to see something or someone that will put a smile on your face. Of course, there is no greater someone in the film than Lord Vader himself. Although brief, his appearance is nothing short of amazing. All of us in the theater in unison said, “WHOA!” at the same time and considering we’ve seen Vader before, that speaks volumes.
Star Wars has always been a great parallel to the gospel teachings of the Bible, light vs dark. Rogue One is no different, and what it shows is that even in the darkest of places, a little light can renew the spirit and hope. Once you see it, and you grasp it, and you cling to it, it will shine brighter. From how they were able to get the plans, to trusting in being “One with the Force”, Rogue One exemplifies that when we trust in “The Force” we can accomplish the unthinkable. But ultimately, it’s not just about that. It is about inspiring that hope in others and allowing it to spread where even the most harden of hearts filled with tragedy can see the light and embrace it.
Star Wars: Rogue One is a definite must watch. This is Star Wars for adults, and there is nothing wrong with that. A bold risk, but one that will pay off very well and open the doors for more standalone stories. I can think of one that I would love to see (and also be for adults), so Lucasfilm or Disney, need some ideas for another standalone risk, contact me because I have the film for you!