Spoiler-free review for today! I’ll write a full-on spoiler review on Wednesday, after I watch the film for a second time on Tuesday (hopefully, this time in a theater that doesn’t have projector issues like this one did. *grumble*). So… let’s get right into this.
Warning: I will endeavor to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, only spoiling details that we knew before going in to the film, either from trailers or from the press surrounding the movie. That said, if you were avoiding all of that to keep yourself thoroughly unspoiled, this review WILL spoil you. So please wait to read this until after you’ve seen the film.
So… Rogue One had a big challenge ahead of it. In some ways, it was even more important to get this right than The Force Awakens. This is the first Star Wars movie that is not part of the main sequence of movies. It’s not following a Skywalker or anyone in the line of Skywalkers, it’s not about their journey, and it’s not even about the jedi really. This was the movie that was supposed to prove to audiences that there is room in the universe for other stories to be told, and that those stories will be interesting and engaging for audiences to watch. Did it succeed? I would say “yes,” but I want to talk about the ways in which it succeeded.
This movie, as you can tell from the trailers and the basic concept, is, at its core, a heist movie. As a result, it carries many of the same tropes and pitfalls of heist movies, but also plays to the genre’s strengths. The first act is kind of slow. It’s all about introducing you to the team and trying to get the wheels turning on the inevitable big job that we’ve all shown up to see. In a shorter movie, this isn’t such a hurdle. If a film is 90 minutes long, then by the time you realize that the film has been crawling for a half an hour, it’s moved on to the action. This movie, however, clocks in at over two hours, and it’s the first 45 minutes to an hour of it that crawls. Don’t get me wrong! It’s still an enjoyable hour for the most part. The casting is great. Felicity Jones knocks it out of the park as Jyn Erso, and there are some great action sequences to keep you from dozing off, but it still drags a bit in the beginning, and there’s no getting around that.
All that said, heist movies ultimately succeed or fail on their ability to create unique, memorable characters, and Rogue One has that down. Every single one of the main team members is memorable, and they all feel like they’ve been given just enough time to leave the impression they needed to by the end of the film, which culminates in a powerhouse of a third act that was well worth the wait.
Ultimately, this is a film for Star Wars fans. And while I imagine it will be enjoyable for anyone for whom the words “heist movie in space” sounds like a good time, when it comes down to it, any Star Wars fan is likely to enjoy this movie a great deal. I certainly did! It hits on all its marks by the end, and it helps to give us a more detailed look at parts of Star Wars history that we’ve never seen before, but have often heard about. If the point of this experiment here was “Can we make a Star Wars film outside the main series and make it fun and interesting?” I’d call this is a success.
I’ll have much more to say in detail in my spoiler-full review on Wednesday. For now, if you haven’t seen this movie, and you enjoy Star Wars, go out and see it. It’s worth it.
P.S. As this is a spoiler-free review, please refrain from spoilers in comments. Thanks!