During the Star Wars Celebration of 2015, it was announced that a series of Star Wars films were being planned to stand-alone from the core, episodic sagas. Known as the Anthology Series, these films would tell different stories from the Star Wars lore.
Now, a year after the Force Awakens set the stage for future Star Wars movies, comes the first anthology in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
***WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW***
Right off the bat, Rogue One separates itself from the other Star Wars films by not including an opening text crawl. But if there was ever a Star Wars film that needed an opening crawl, it was this one. (I felt something missing when “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” wasn’t followed by the Star Wars logo, the opening text crawl, and the iconic score by John Williams. At one point I even heard someone yell “Where’s the crawl?!”) Instead we just got right into the story…
Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) tracks down scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and his family. He wants Galen to help him and the Galactic Empire to create an ultimate weapon of destruction. Trying to protect his family, Galen resigns himself to go with the Empire, but Lyra Erso (Valene Kane), his wife, threatens to kill Krennic with a gun if they take him away. Krennic orders his Death Troopers to kill her, which leads a young Jyn Erso (Dolly Gadsdon) to make a run for it to a cave with an underground hiding place. She waits there until Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) finds her and takes her with him.
We then cut to an older Jyn (Felicity Jones) being kept in captivity by the Galactic Empire. The Rebel Alliance sends Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to free her in an attempt to learn more about her father and Gerrera. But when they try to get her out, she beats them and makes a run for it. K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a reprogrammed Imperial droid, stops her from escaping and congratulates her for being rescued. (Every time this character appeared on screen, he gave a levity to an otherwise tense, and sometimes slow, film.) Once she’s freed and taken to the rebel base, Jyn is informed that her father helped the Empire create the deadly weapon known as the Death Star.
During the course of these events, we get introduced to Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), an Imperial pilot who was sent by Galen Erso with a message for Saw Gerrera.
Jyn and Cassian get sent on a mission to find and talk to Gerrera. When they get to the planet Jadha, where Gerrera is believed to be, Jyn and Cassian find themselves in the middle of an insurrection. It’s at this point where they meet Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), who just happened to be standing in the middle of the chaos. (Nothing much is revealed about these characters, other than Imwe being blind and a strong believer of the Force. I think the film would’ve been the same if these two had just been extras who joined the Rebel Alliance. The same could be said of Bodhi Rook.)
Gerrera shows the message to Jyn. In it, Galen explains how he was able to give the Death Star a flaw in its core reactor. If the reactor was destroyed, the whole thing would collapse.
While Jyn was seeing her father’s message, news of the insurgence had reached Krennic. He decides to use the city of insurgents as a test drive for the weapon. A deadly beam destroys the city where Jyn and company had been. The force was such that it created a ripple effect that sent a tsunami of earth and rubble across hundreds of miles around.
Feeling the impact of the blast, Cassian and company make a run for it with the help of K-2SO.
Once they’re safely away in space, Jyn informs the crew about her father’s message. Unfortunately, Cassian tells her that without the original message, the Rebel Alliance would never believe her. Instead, they would go to where Galen Erso is believed to be and take him to the Alliance themselves. He then contacts the rebel base to inform them of Galen’s message and where they’re currently heading. The rebel officer informs Cassian that the main mission stands: find Galen Erso and kill him.
After an emergency landing in Eadu, they find Galen Erso in an Imperial compound. Krennic arrives and questions the scientists who helped Erso create the Death Star about being traitors. He tells them that someone sent out an Imperial pilot with a message to the rebels. But just before Krennic was going to order his Death Troopers to murder all of the scientists, Erso admits it was him who sent the message. Krennic kills the other scientists anyways, and just as they were about to take Galen away, Jyn shouts for her father. Everyone turns to look at her, but before they can shoot her, X-wings start firing on the platform.
The Alliance sent a small force to carry out Cassian’s main mission when they believed they had died after the emergency landing that left them without communication. Cassian himself had had the opportunity to shoot Galen, but he was not capable. (I figure this was as a result of the growing chemistry between Cassian and Jyn.)
Galen Erso dies when an X-wing’s blast causes an explosion behind him. Jyn hurries to her father just in time to hear his last words. Cassian pulls her away from the body and they get into a stolen Imperial ship.
When they return to base, Jyn tries to convince the Alliance of the veracity of her father’s message and sacrifice.But she only finds that Cassian was right. They wouldn’t take such a risk. Defeated, Jyn believes her father’s sacrifice would have been in vain. Without the Death Star blueprints, it would be impossible to know where the core reactor was located. But all of a sudden, Cassian and a group of others volunteer to go with Jyn to get the plans for the Death Star. (I personally thought this decision seemed very quick from a character that not a couple of moments before was struggling to decide whether or not to take Galen Erso’s life. Someone who blatantly said that he had followed orders from an early age just suddenly decided to go against everything he believed in? Maybe if we’d seen Jyn’s character actually point out the flaws in his loyalty and devotion, it would have seen more believable.)
Once they reach the planet of Scarif Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO go on their own to try and retrieve the plans of the Death Star. Everyone else was in charge of getting the Imperial fleets attention away from them. (For me, this is where the movie changes gears and moves at a better pace and rhythm.)
When they get to the database, K-2SO sacrifices himself to give Jyn and Cassian time to get the plans and send them to the rebels. (This is perhaps the death that was most impactful in the entire film. A droid that had been sassy and selfish the entire time suddenly demonstrating a selfless nature, was perhaps the most character development we got from any character.)
Once the Alliance learned of the mission Cassian and his friends had taken to retrieve the plans, they sent a fleet to help them out. A few X-wings were able to get through the Empire’s barriers before they put them back up again. If they wanted to send the plans, the rebels would have to destroy the barrier that was interfering with their signal.
One by one, the rebels who volunteered to join Jyn Erso perish until there’s only her and Cassian left. The Alliance is able to destroy the barrier and Jyn sends the plans to the fleet waiting above. Once they have it, they try to escape with hyperspeed, but just as they’re going to, the Empire fleet arrives with the Death Star. Grand Moff Tarkin (CGI Peter Cushing/Guy Henry) orders the destruction of Krennic’s base on Scarif.
The beam hits the water, and just like in Jedha, it createas a ripple effect. Jyn and Cassian sit by the shore looking at each other with the wave on the background. He tells her how much her father would have been proud of her. They hug each other just as the wave hits them.
Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) boards the ship with the plans and proceeds to massacre everyone. (This is perhaps one of the best scenes in all of the Star Wars films.) But before he is able to kill the rebel with the plans, he hangs them to another who escapes just in time.
The movie ends when Princess Leia (CGI Carrie Fisher/Ingvild Deila) receives the plans that start off the premise for Episode 4: A New Hope.
Although Rogue One contains one of the best scenes of all of the Star Wars films, it does suffer heavily from pacing issues and character development. Nonetheless, Rogue One is still very much a film worth watching, if only for its third act.
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. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.