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Movie Review: Rogue One (2016)

As an eighth installment in the storied Star Wars film franchise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story offered the same action-packed, graphically astounding showing that fans have come to expect.  Movie critics across the galaxy are split on whether the film, which surpassed $1.011 billion in global earnings as of January 22, was up to par with the others in the legendary series.  Although it is difficult for any Star Wars film to measure up to the lauded original trilogy, Rogue One put its best foot forward for this critic.  

The film follows Jyn Erso’s (Felicity Jones) campaign to an Imperial base on the planet Scarif, wherein she is tasked with stealing the infamous Death Star plans of Episode IV: A New Hope fame.  Jyn’s motley crew crusades to Scarif, initially independent of the Rebel Alliance, to vanquish the Empire, offering a new perspective on the Star Wars universe through the lens of a people uninvested in the battle between sides, but still largely affected by it.  

This group of independents excluded nearly every character from the main series and did well to do so.  In addition to the new, fresh perspective it yielded, the introduction of a new set of characters dispelled the possibility of the continuity issues that are always a risk when creating a film meant to fill in plot gaps and tie up loose ends.  In particular (spoiler!), Gareth Edwards’ decision to kill off the majority of the film’s main characters eliminated any ambiguity, not to mention provided an effective subversion of the “heroes never die” trend that the feel-good Star Wars movies have tended to avoid (with notable exceptions).  In all, the new film was a darker and heavier take on the series, featuring jaded characters from the dregs of society and culminating in their demise; it certainly feels out of place if considered among the other seven films.

And yet, with a grand soundtrack that screamed Star Wars with blaring brass and swelling strings, and with lovable side characters played by the likes of Donnie Yen and Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One did not disappoint.  The film embraced an extensive special effects budget with planet-shaking explosions and convincing CGI renderings of Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin.  In spite of the inevitable occasional lull in plot and a handful of contrived jokes, Rogue One was riveting and was certainly a cut above my expectations.  

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