Jyn Erso kicks ass in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the stand-alone anthology film that paves the way for the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.
This may contain spoilers for Rogue One.
Rogue One is the first Star Wars opening crawl to be given a live-action adaptation. This film did not disappoint at all. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) provides the franchise with another strong independent woman. One that young women can look up to as a role model.
The same year that gave us The Jungle Book also managed to bring Peter Cushing back from the dead. Or so to speak. We haven’t seen Grand Moff Tarkin since Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. In this film, he gets more dialogue and action. As such, the visual effects animators have a lot of work. This also speaks to the advancement in technology. Could you have imagined something like this in 1977?!?
However, it’s the cameo at the end of the film that plays the segue into the start of Star Wars: A New Hope. It should not come as a surprise to see Princess Leia Organa on the Tantive IV. Maybe a slight shock but this film does take place immediately before the start of the original trilogy. It makes sense that we get some fan service in terms of what exactly drew Vader to track down the Organa’s ship. Seeing the Rebel Alliance on Yavin 4 does bring a welcome trip down memory lane with Senators Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), General Jan Dodonna, and more.
As for some of the new characters, we’re introduced to Admiral Raddus. Admiral Raddus is a new Mon Calimari character in the universe. He’s a Winston Churchill-type figure. The Resistance will ultimately pay tribute to Raddus by naming a ship after him in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
When it comes to the film’s dialogue, there’s a lot of fan service. A conversation takes place between Organa and Mothma discussing how to get in touch with an old Jedi friend on Tatooine. Organa, who will be leaving for his death on Alderaan, says his daughter, Leia, is the one person he would trust with his life. True enough, it’s Leia’s ship that escapes the Rebel command ship with a pair of droids and the Death Star plans on board.
Rogue One changes how we view A New Hope since there is now some new context to scenes and characters in the original trilogy. Look at the beginning of A New Hope when Vader’s ship is chasing the Tantive IV. The ending of this film really puts the opening in quite a different context. We see the terror taking place on the Rebel command ship. The struggle to get the Death Star plans to someone heading to the Tantive IV is real.
The destruction of both Jedha and Scarif at the hands of the Death Star are horrifying. This is the first time we really get a look at what happens on the ground. You don’t get the same feeling while watching Alderaan get destroyed in Star Wars: A New Hope. Even though we barely knew them, one can’t help but mourn Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) when they get wiped out of existence.
The Death Star’s biggest weakness was a flaw in the exhaust port. Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is not just the father of Jyn Erso, but the scientist who helped design the Death Star. He built this flaw into the design when he was forced back into working for the Empire. Without sending pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) to get a message to Jyn, we would have never known.
If you remember watching A New Hope, there’s an empty seat in the conference room as the Imperials are discussing the stolen Death Star plans and the rebellion. Pablo Hidalgo tweeted a few weeks prior to Rogue One’s release about the importance of this scene. After watching Rogue One, the scene can be seen in an entirely different light. This empty seat very well could have belonged to Orson Krennic, who died during the Battle of Sarif.
Other moments of fan service include when Jyn and Cassian run into Ponda Baba and Doctor Evazan, previously seen in A New Hope, on Jedha. For Star Wars Rebels fans, the Ghost is featured in the film and Chopper has a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo. “General Syndulla, please report” can be heard over the intercome on Yavin 4.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is very much a war film but tonally fits in with the original trilogy.
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
SCREENWRITERS: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy
CAST: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker
Lucasfilm opened Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theaters on December 16, 2016. Grade: 4/5
A version of this review originally ran when the film opened in 2016.