More than a decade ago ago, while working on the Star Wars prequel trilogies, special effects supervisor John Knoll pitched an idea to Lucasfilm, a story for a possible film inspired by the series’ introductory crawl. That went nowhere, but when The Walt Disney Studios acquired Lucasfilm, Knoll knew he had another shot. Lo and behold, now we have a first stand-alone instalment that is set to pave the way for infinite possibilities much to the happiness of Star Wars fans all over the world. In the labyrinthine universe of Star Wars, between the sequel and prequel trilogies, and last year’s blockbuster The Force Awakens , there’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story . It’s just the spin-off fans need to tide them over till Episode VIII releases at the end of next year.
Rogue One is set just before Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). We start our journey with the capture of ex-Empire scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) who’s being forced to return and work for the dark side. At this point, the Rebels, polarised by their conflicting ideologies, must make peace with each other and unite for a common cause: to take down The Empire. The need of the hour is to get their hands on the plans of a new super-weapon, the Death Star, being built by dark side, one that could effectively wipe out planets. With few unlikely comrades, Jyn Erso (Galen’s daughter played by Felicity Jones) must get the Rebels access to the plans. Her allies include the raspy and breathless Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is a former Imperial pilot who’s now fighting for the Rebels. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is a Rebel Alliance Intelligence officer who’s done things he’s not proud of for his fight against the Empire. Finally, there’s Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), a blind man with the Force guiding his suave fighting skills. However, the star (pun intended) of the show has to be the reprogrammed android K-2SO whose subtle sass is just the humour the doctor ordered.
The lure of Rogue One is perhaps the fact that it’s a stand-alone film, one that can and will be enjoyed by fans and laymen alike. As a part of the latter, this writer constantly experienced edge-of-the-seat syndrome, a fictional condition that succinctly describes watching Rogue One . The film’s intricate plotline is enough to hold the audience in rapture, provided you’re hanging on to every dialogue. There’s nothing much to say about the weak individual characters, except that when they do come together, this ragtag motley crew of underdogs really reach for your emotions. While they attempt their suicide mission, every fibre in your being is rooting for them. And when it comes to special effects, Knoll has outdone himself after working on previous Star Wars films, Pacific Rim (2013) and Avatar (2009). Everything from space ships zooming through hyperspace to the combat scenes with explosions are all treats to our senses.
For fans, though, while the film is incredibly nostalgic, a couple of things will set their hearts a flutter. Knoll’s visual effects expertise fantastically brings to living colour, two characters that would not be expected to show up. Then there are few but definitely impactful scenes with Darth Vader, enough to send chills down your spine.
As is evident from this review, Rogue One is a delight. Go watch the film for its soaring action sequences, uplifting storyline, tear-jerking character ends and of course, the constant reiteration that one ought never to lose hope.