For a brand as huge as Star Wars and a devoted fandom that deifies movie characters to hallowed proportions, any new movie in the franchise is beset with staggeringly huge expectations. Comparisons with previous movies are a given and every pic, trailer, teaser is subjected to a hair-splitting analysis that determines whether a new Star Wars flick is fit to take its place in the pantheon of legendary blockbusters like A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
Consider the case of the newer ones by George Lucas- The Phantom Menace and the following two sequels- three movies regarded so awful fans have vowed not to utter them in the same breath as the sacred trilogy. So when Rogue One was announced as a spin off, I was immensely skeptical of how it would turn out, since The Force Awakens had just released the other year and another Star Wars movie would be a fatigued, disappointing effort to cash on the franchise.
**MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW. Read at your own risk**
First Half- Mediocre Acting, Forced Humor But Impressive Action
I am not going to narrate the entire plot, but will mention briefly the parts that matter. Jyn Erso is the daughter of Imperial scientist Galen Erso, who is the brain behind the new weapon of the Empire- the Death Star.
After a tragic encounter with Imperial forces, the first half moves around Jyn teaming up with Rebel Alliance spy Cassian Andor, a couple of Asian guys- blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe and mercenary Baze Malbus who has a huge, kickass gun, a droid K-2SO and Bodhi Reek, a defector Imperial cargo shuttle pilot. Jyn finds out that her father Galen Erso (played by the redoubtable Mads Mikkelsen) has built a major flaw within the Death Star that allows it to be completely destroyed with a single shot to its core.
Now as the movie played out, it started seeming that this was a spinoff made in a hurry- the acting is pedestrian, the characters were not endearing enough (compared to The Force Awakens) and the humor mainly comprised of clichéd, one-liners from the droid, which I thought was pretty run-of-the mill stuff.
The action, however, is top-notch and we also get to witness the full incredible powers of the Death Star, when it blows away the capital of Jedha city, thus crushing the insurgency led by Saw Gerrera, a resistance fighter who saved Jyn from the Imperial forces.
A particularly important point touched by Rogue One is about how the Rebel alliance’s morality traits are not swimming in milk and honey, and we see shades of gray from characters confessing that they had done things they were not proud of for the bigger cause. We have become so used to seeing the Empire and the rebels in terms of black and white that this new perspective brings a fresh, nuanced dimension to the characters.
To be frank, despite the spectacular visual effects, I was less than-impressed by the end of the first half and was quite weary of the fact that an entire hour in the movie still remained. Must be some okay-average stuff that awaited me, I thought.
How wrong I was.
Second Half- An Espionage Thriller, Glorious Space Wars Carnage, Brutal Realities And A Sublime Climax
The second part mainly comprises the rebel team launching a spy operation to steal the Death Star plans from the high-security Imperial data bank on the planet Scarif, the support of the Aliance leadership and the ensuing cosmic destruction that follows in the war. The espionage operation is a total thriller, as Jyn and her band penetrate enemy lines to steal the plans.
The place is overflowing with Stormtroopers and it becomes inevitable that a hard battle lies ahead. Meanwhile, we are also introduced to the most iconic villain in the entire history of cinema- Darth Vader who is as spine-chilling as always. More on that later.
The acting, the action and the entire pace of the movie is raised several notches during the second half. There is a lot of nostalgia associated with seeing the old characters of the Rebel alliance when full-scale war happens. The space wars that follow are just out of the world, unleashing a cosmic destruction orgy that leave you spell-bound.
However, acts of valor and tales of heroism are not without sacrifice. In what can be regarded as the darkest climax of all Star Wars movies yet, our heroes…..DIE! All of them! Even the droid! Good lord, I was not expecting that! It’s a total doomsday scenario, and the entire planet get blown up by the Death Star, with Jyn and Cassian going out in a poignant moment of burning glory.
The mission is successful though. However, Rogue One’s winning moment comes towards the end when it reaches its sublime climax. Lord Darth Vader is revealed in all his villainous glory when he boards the Alliance command ship to retrieve the stolen plans. His ominous raspy breathing is portent of the head-exploding brilliance that awaits us, as he hacks through an entire group of Rebel troopers with his iconic red lightsaber.
It was a moment of bad-assery that made many a Star Wars fan reach peak level nerdgasm, and one of the top three moments in all the movies of the franchise combined. That one single moment is worth your entire ticket. We then see a young Princess Leia in the scene right before the start of the 1977 classic, thus tying it up beautifully with the original trilogy, and culminating to an extremely satisfying conclusion. Heck, if you don’t get goosebumps by the end of Rogue One, tell me and I will personally refund your ticket money!