By Seth Boyum
The MacGuffin of “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the stolen Death Star plans. While the non-canon Star Wars tie-ins have offered various accounts of how Princess Leia got them, we’ve finally gotten the true story on the big screen with “Rogue One.”
Twenty-two-year-old criminal Jyn Erso finds herself extracted from an Imperial prison by the Rebel Alliance. Intelligence has reported the rumors that a secret Imperial planet-killing super weapon — the Death Star — developed by Jin’s long-missing father, Galen Erso, and Director Orson Krennic, is nearing completion. The Alliance needs to find it first and make Jyn a deal; her freedom in exchange for her help in stopping it.
This desperate mission throws Jyn in with various disenfranchised individuals, such as rebel spy, Cassian Andor, and his droid, K-2SO, Imperial defector Bhodi Rook, former Guardians of the Whills, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, and extremist freedom fighter, Saw Gerrera, as time runs out and Krennic’s dreams come ever closer to allowing the Empire to rule the Galaxy unchecked.
As the first non-Saga Star Wars movie since 2008’s “The Clone Wars,” the big question was if the franchise could support a non-Skywalker film. The answer is a definitive “yes.” While characters may be somewhat subservient to the plot, the actors give performances that make them stand out. Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso is a standout lead, with the scenes involving her and Jin’s father (Mads Mikkelsen), creating the main emotional core as her story arcs from jaded follower to leader.
K-2SO steals the show with “Firefly” and Disney veteran Alan Tudyk’s deadpan delivery, with Îmwe and Malbus (Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen) grabbing the rest. Îmwe’s mantra, “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” will probably become “Rogue One’s” signature line.
Ben Mendelsohn is wonderful as the grasping Krennic, although the script gives him far less to do than the development he received in the essential-to-read prequel novel, “Catalyst.” Beyond the principles, there are a ton of cameos and minor roles from various returning characters. These familiar faces range from returning actors to computer wizardry, but all are welcome, with Darth Vader’s (voiced by James Earl Jones) brief return being the standout.
“Rogue One’s” recreations of the New Hope-era are perfect and flawlessly work with the originals and are packed with in-jokes of all kinds that create the atmosphere and draw viewers into the world. All this is set to the music of master composer Michael Giacchino, whose score is unique but seamless with John Williams iconic themes.
“Rogue One” is a new, somewhat grittier look into the Star Wars world, but one that earns its place in the main series many times over and proves that Disney’s success with “The Force Awakens” wasn’t a fluke.