MacPsych at the Movies: Rogue One

So. This was a long time coming. Or at least that’s how it felt. A new Star Wars movie, this time another prequel, just one year on the heels of  Star Wars sequel.

Confusing, perhaps, for those of us not steeped in the Star Wars universe and its complex history. But Rogue One does a great job of existing as a standalone movie – you don’t really need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Star Wars to enjoy it.

But if you do want to know when it’s set, Rogue One takes place just before Star Wars: A New Hope. That’s the first Star Wars film made, where we meet Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker for the very first time. Here’s a handy chart explaining the timeline.

And the Death Star.

It was always a topic of some amusement in the years following the original Star Wars that it seemed so easy for such tiny space ships to destroy a moon-sized space station. While I’m sure it was a initially a clumsy plot device on the part of George Lucas, ‘Rogue One’ explains a) where the Death Star came from and b) how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star, facilitating its destruction in ‘A New Hope’.

Considering how ‘A New Hope’ explains that in a fair amount of detail, you’d think there wouldn’t be much more story to tell. Well, you’d be wrong.

No spoilers ahead, just facts and characters you’ll have picked up from the trailers. Honest!

‘Rogue One’ explains just who the Rebel Spies were, how they came together in the first place and how they find out the Death Star’s weaknesses. But aside from that, we learn much more about what it’s like to live under the Empire, how the Rebel Alliance isn’t as allied as we might think and how not everyone is interested in getting involved in galactic struggles.

Where ‘A New Hope’ was very much a black and white good-versus-evil, ‘Rogue One’ explores the shades of grey between the Empire and the Rebels, including characters you’ll cheer for who make Han Solo look like a choir boy.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of ‘A New Hope’ and its sequels was the heroic tone reminiscent of old Flash Gordon weekly movie serials. Lots of crazy, mostly consequence-free gun battles, heroes winning despite insurmountable odds and a clear line between good and bad.

‘Rogue One’ is much more like a realistic war movie, illustrating just how messy any armed struggle is. Realistic, if you can ignore the spaceships and aliens. The rebels and spies aren’t all dashing and good looking. Their methods are frequently far from heroic. It’s a very modern Star Wars film and couldn’t be further from the oh so disappointing prequels featuring Ewan McGregor. There’s very little Jedi mysticism here, and a lot more realistic action – and consequences.

But there are a ton of very knowing references to the original trilogy of movies, all of which are executed brilliantly. From the recreation of the rebel base on Yavin IV, the appearances of Mon Mothma and the X-Wing fighters we grew to love all those years ago. There are a ton of other, more subtle references to ‘A New Hope’ and its sequels, but I won’t spoil that here.

That said, it also introduces a whole cast of new characters, without explicit ties to any of the other films. So don’t expect to see our old favourites here. But the new characters are excellent and sure to be fan favourites in years to come.

Yes, I could literally sit right down and watch it again from the start. I enjoyed pretty much every minute and if all the planned Star Wars movies pan out just like this one, then I’ll be one happy geek.

9/10

  1. I’ve seen it twice, and I love it; one of better “modern era” films, the story was tight, straightforward and ties in really well with canon. Also the characters were likeable, a feature that’s been missing for years. Great stuff, will deffo go see it again soon.

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