Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" Review

It's utterly amazing how well "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" fits together with "A New Hope." Everything you heard and read about in George Lucas's 1977 masterpiece is virtually laid out before your very eyes onscreen. The best part is that you don't feel like it's overkill or negatively affects or alters the events that unfold in the original movie. As a matter of fact, I was left going, "Oh, THAT'S why that happened."

In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction. They are ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

You would think that a movie that tells a tale you already know the outcome of would feel a bit predictable. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is concerned about HOW it all comes to pass. Knowing full-well what to expect to a slight degree didn't change the fact that I was on the edge of my seat in the final act.

The pacing and structure of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" reminded me very much of "A New Hope" as well. You can tell the beat of the original 1977 film was studied and examined when this was assembled. Younger audiences might find the moments of plot and story development to be slow, but I give filmmakers credit for taking the neccessary time to help unfamiliar viewers understand what's truly unraveling. Not everyone who walks into "Rogue One" has seen all the other "Star Wars" movies. I know that's hard to believe, but it's true.

I've heard a lot of groanings over character development in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." When "A New Hope" hit theaters in 1977, we were immediately thrown into this world that felt established and were left to sort of figure out who's who and what was going on based upon the narrative and dialogue everyone was delivering. George Lucas didn't lay out everything in simple terms. We're given background on Luke Skywalker, but all the other characters show up and we accept them as who they appear to be. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is put together very much the same way, with most of the time spent on a backstory for main character Jyn Erso.

Composer Michael Giacchino does a good job taking bits and pieces of John Williams' orginal scores for "Star Wars" and blending them into his own musical creation. He doesn't just simply regurgitate what's come before, but uses familiar lines of music intertwined with new pieces to further the emotions, drama, and excitement of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

Is there a lot of fan service in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." You bet there is! What would you expect from a movie that was put together by folks who grew up watching "A New Hope" every morning before school while eating cereal? None of it ever feels forced, however. When a familiar face is seen briefly, it always leaves a smile on your face. However, those who don't have that tie to the past films won't feel like they're left out.

Since I'm trying to keep this spoiler-free, I'll do my best to analyze the CGI and special effects for "Rogue One: A Star Wars." Let's just say that ILM has very much advanced the art to a whole new level of excellence. There are not just short cameos by digital human characters, but multiple scenes in which they converse and emotionally react to other individuals. The space battles are visually flawless and utterly amazing to look at.

When Director Gareth Edwards talked about his vision to make "Rogue One" a real war movie, I was immediately nervous that we'd get stretches of film shot shaky with a hand-held camera. I'm one of those guys who had to leave the theater when I went to see "District 9" and closed my eyes through much of "Paranormal Activity." I could NEVER see a movie like "Cloverfield" on the big-screen. Edwards manages to capture that documentary feel without being too unstable and jittery I'm very happy to say. I would describe it as looking like a professional news cameraman was assigned to capture the events of a ground attack.

One question on everyone's mind is, "How much is Darth Vader in the movie?" Let's just say his presence is definitely felt throughout the whole thing. If you've listened to Kathleen Kennedy or any of the filmmakers speak about the amount of screen time the Dark Lord of the Sith is given, you know what to expect.

Most of the acting in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" was convincing and satisfying. There were little spots where it felt like the actors were possibly having to return to a specific moment or emotion they had left behind. This might have been a result of the reshoots that occurred. I would imagine that sometimes it's hard to put yourself back into a certain frame of mind or situation after having walked away from it for so long.

As a Christian, probably one of the most touching moments in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is when the blind Chirrut Imwe steps out in faith to accomplish a seemingly impossible task. Here's a man who isn't even a Jedi, but believes in the power of the Force enough to overcome insurmountable odds. He's also used as a shining example of how you can have an impact on others through your own example.

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action. It is definitely a war movie, but without too much gore thanks to the way laser blasts seem to cauterize wounds. Things do get dark at times, especially when one character shows up in particular.

I was left a bit emotionally overwhelmed at times during "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." There are things I got to see onscreen that I never thought would ever be possible. I was so distracted by certain elements and characters at times that I couldn't concentrate on the dialogue being spoke or the action taking place. It's definitely the type of film that demands multiple viewings.

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