Storm Troopers being bowled over, cannon-fodder style like skittles, an array of rather deformed characters from a variety of backgrounds and gene pools co-existing in arid lands, and a bewilderment of flying craft, weaving in and out of multi-coloured laser fire. This may well be a spin-off story slightly removed from the main franchise, but when it comes to all things Star Wars, some things never change.
Welcome to Rogue One, a tale of rebellion uprisings in the face of impending imperial iniquitousness, directed by Gareth Edwards – he of Godzilla and Monsters fame.
Felicity Jones plays wide-eyed Jyn Erso, the daughter of reluctant Imperial Death Star scientist and engineer, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). Amongst those joining her in her quest to usurp the Empire’s dastardly plans are Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and blind, one-man martial art whirlwind and general force of nature, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen).
It’s a film packed full of well crafted stunts and set pieces. It’s predictably visually impressive and as far as is possible within the tight constraints of all things Star Wars, it approaches this particular story – to some extent at least – from a slightly alternative point of view, which is to be applauded.
But then again, there are a certain number of ever-present, indispensable criteria which a Star Wars director would ignore at his own peril, and from that point of view, Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One chooses to remain firmly within its safety net.
Perhaps most notable of all, Rogue One feels cluttered, messy and overly busy. There’s loads going on and lots of characters competing for central billing. To be honest, I lost count of the number of times that I found myself disengaged from events on the screen, staring at the cinema wall contemplating more important issues.
I intend to finally run that marathon, in case you were wondering.
There are fleeting glimpses of historic Star Wars characters to keep the die-hard fan base happy, a John Williams-esque score from Michael Giacchino providing that authentic Star Wars sound, and without giving too much away, a welcome, surprisingly downbeat conclusion to the story, (if you ignore the rather convenient, tagged-on, forced epilogue).
All in all, it’s a reasonable outing for this age-old franchise which, despite never having truly produced a genuinely outstanding stand-alone film (and yes, I include The Empire Strikes Back in that assessment – speak to my lawyer), still has that hold upon people, managing to create a buzz of excitement, luring the masses to the big screen, something which continues to impress me, all these years on.
There’s nothing really new to see here. No doubt some will see this as proof positive that the franchise is not only alive and well, but totally re-born. Others will lament the fact that they don’t make ’em like they used to.
The truth is that Star Wars chapters come and go, and grave threat of oblivion emanating from the Death Star, or not, the world somehow keeps turning.