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Refuge Reviews-Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One is not Episode 8, but it is one of the best Star Wars films made to date!

The wait for Rogue One has been interminable for me ever since I heard about the premise years ago after Disney bought the Star Wars IP from original Star Wars creator George Lucas. What is that premise you ask? On this trip to the galaxy far, far away we find ourselves only days before the events of the original Star Wars from 1977 as the evil Galactic Empire is preparing to test their new planet-destroying weapon, the Death Star. Meanwhile, a small band of rebels begin a mission to steal the plans to this ultimate weapon, so they can destroy it before its too late!

It was a bold move to create a Star Wars film that doesn't feature any of our main heroes from the main Saga films and instead focus on a new band of rebels to follow on this adventure. But I think they did a fantastic job of making me care about these characters and that's thanks in large part to the performances. Felicity Jones leads the cast as Jyn Erso, a young woman that has been on her own since she was young and is recruited by the Rebellion to help them find her father, who may be crucial in stealing  the Death Star plans. She brings a humanity and pathos to Jyn that's essential to making us invest in her right away. Other standouts in the cast include Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, a Rebel spy and assassin that goes through the biggest character change in the film and sells us on it and Alan Tudyk as the lovably blunt security droid, K-2SO, who steals every scene that he is in with some much needed levity. But my favorite character is Chirrut Imwe played by martial artist extraordinaire Donnie Yen, who is a true believer in the Force while not being a Jedi Knight or wielding a lightsaber. The rest of the crew is also memorable forming a Dirty Dozen-esque group that goes through a lot of dangerous situations to save the galaxy.

The villains are no slouches either with Ben Mendelsohn portraying the ambitious Director of the Death Star, Orson Krennic, who hunts down our band of rebels throughout the film with his squad of black-armored Death Troopers. Also a certain Dark Lord of the Sith named Darth Vader also makes a couple of memorable appearances.

The action scenes and special effects are top-notch in Rogue One. A half dozen beautiful new planets and environments give the film a unique look all its own and some wonderful locations to explore. There is the sandy planet of pilgrims, Jedha where the Jedi once lived and the sunny beaches of Scarif that plays host to the film's climactic third act battle sequence. Speaking of the third act, it features a massive space battle the likes of which we haven't seen since Return of the Jedi in 1983. The effects bring to life the droids, starships and aliens that we expect to see in a Star Wars film with amazing aplomb and a good number of the creatures are actually physical puppets which makes me smile wide as a fan of classic practical effects.

Rogue One is above all else a war movie the likes of which we haven't seen in the Star Wars series before. The focus on the boots on the ground battles between the Rebellion and the Empire highlight a darker side of our favorite franchise. In fact this is one of the darkest Star Wars films to date alongside 2005's Revenge of the Sith. There is a lot of action and it shows the consequences of war vividly making this not the best Star Wars film for younger ages but something fresh for longtime fans like myself. The movie shows the power of hope and sacrifice through its characters in an organic way that creates many memorable moments that will go down as some of my favorite in the entire series! Rogue One is definitely made for the fans as it features numerous cameos and references to other Star Wars films and novels that will have fans cheering and everyone not in the know looking around going, "What?" It is hard to say whether that will negatively affect your viewing experience or not as most of the people I have talked to about this film are also big Star Wars fans.

Consensus:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is deftly directed and photographed in ways we have never seen before, ably separating itself from the mainline Star Wars films. My only criticism of the film is that the musical score from Michael Giacchino does not live up to the scores from past Star Wars films, but it also doesn't distract much either. Rogue One is a dark, fun and adventurous journey through a galaxy far, far away with memorable characters, imposing villains, epic battle scenes and powerful themes of hope and sacrifice. I highly recommend this film to those who are of the right age and who love science fiction films or really, films in general whether you're a big Star Wars fan or not.  

Family-Friendliness:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi action violence. This is a pretty dark movie that is a war film first and foremost and because of that many characters face their ends in the film, both good and bad. There is no blood or gore but some scenes could be too much emotionally for younger movie-goers. There is also no language or sexual content of any kind. A few creatures could be scary for some movie goers as well. Also as always with Star Wars, the theme of the Force is referenced regularly as it is the main religion of this movie universe and as such many themes of spirituality are discussed. Overall I would say that kids 10 and up will be fine with Rogue One.

Rating: 4.75/5