Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
HTS Overall Score:
I will be the first to admit that I was rather reticent about watching “Rogue One” this December. I’m a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) “Star Wars” fan, and have watched every TV show, and read most of the books in the extended universe multiple times. I was one of those butthurt fans that resented Disney relegating the extended universe books to non-canon as I had grown up reading Timothy Zahn, Barbara Hambly and Michael J. Stackpole’s renditions of what happened after “Return of the Jedi” for close to 20 years. So when Disney took over and said “none of that counts” and created their own canon outside of the 6 feature films I was a bit perturbed. Well, I got over my frustration after “The Fore Awakens” came out and really enjoyed it, but as much as “The Force Awakens” was fun it still is a bit of an odd bird in the “Star Wars” Universe. Originally, I rated it a 3/5, but once I got it on Blu-ray I really started to enjoy the film. However, it’s weird. After viewing it a few times on home video I have to admit that “The Force Awakens” was NOT as good as I had thought it was after re watching. Time has made me RE downgrade my rating to a 3/5 from the 4/5 I rated it as when the Blu-ray came out (I leave my Blu-ray review intact, rating and all, being that it was a product of WHEN I reviewed at that point in time). However, “Rogue One” was something that made me hesitant as I wasn’t sure how good the NON Skywalker/Jedi movies would be. Spin offs seemed a bit like the money grubbing Disney that I know and love, so I prepared myself for the worst. Well, I was wrong and I’m glad of it. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is one of the best examples of how to do a movie right that pays homage to the “Star Wars” of old, yet manages to blend new and modern techniques and storytelling seamlessly. There’s winks and nods to the past, and some exciting new characters and adventures to enjoy without tainting the old or feeling like it is trying to make a carbon copy of our childhood nostalgia.
It's only a short time before the events of “Star Wars: A New Hope” and the rebel alliance is still fragile. A defecting Imperial pilot named Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) brings word to Rebel militant Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) that a giant planet killing machine known as the Death Star is being built to crush the rebellion. The rebellion forces catch wind of what is happening and dispatch Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to get ahold of the main builder’s daughter, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), and use her to get close to Saw Gerrera (her father and Saw were once friends). After getting close to Saw and Bodhi, the Jyn and Cassian realize that this is a lot more important than just rumors of a super weapon. The weapon is real and the power is IMMENSE (something they are witness to on Saw’s home world of Jedda). It seems that Jyn’s father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) has built a flaw into the main reactor that will cause a chain reaction if fired upon, and if they can get that information to the Rebels all is not lost (you, know, firing a proton torpedo down a small thermal exhaust port. No larger than 2 meters wide).
With the Rebel Alliance terrified of the weapon and incredibly fractured at this point, Jyn, Cassian, a force sensitive monky named Chirrut (Donnie Yen), a sardonic imperial reprogrammed droid (Alan Tudyk) and a few others decide to take matters into their own hands and get ahold of the Death Star plans before its too late. However, the way is not easy and is blocked by thousands of Imperial forces and none other than Darth Vader himself. So what started out as a simple information run may turn out to be one of the most pivotal moments in the war between the galactic empire and the people we soon know as friends.
“Rogue One” is a hoot. I had this big sloppy grin all over my face from start to finish and the movie just gets more intricate with each and every watch. There’s a lot of incredible talent involved on the screen and Gareth Edwards (director of “Godzilla” and “Monsters”) makes his third feature film a smash hit. This is a bit of a darker film than most of the other “Star Wars” movies out there (maybe “Revenge of the Sith” comes close) with a more sober face and less silly “Lucasisms”. Things are bleak and scary. The rebel alliance is not just a heroic force but soldiers who are desperately fighting to stay alive and have to give up a part of their soul to make this happen. Cassian is not your typical “throwaway” rebel where no one outside of the Jedi order seem to matter. He’s a flesh and blood human being who has done many things in service to the rebellion that haunt him. The same goes for every member of the crew. Jyn is a perfect blend of rought and tumble child turned hero and seasoned fighter. She sees the world for how it is and knows that even despite her lack of power, she can contribute to the war.
The action is incredible and I have to say the film FEELS both “Original Trilogy” and not at the same time. There tie fighter and X-wing designs are picture perfect models from 1977 and the Victory class Star Destroyer designs come out of mothballs to take me back to a 6-year-old child staring with wide eyes at a 25-inch TV in my aunt’s living room. However, there is a sense of grit and somber military tightness that keeps it from being as “light” as most “Star Wars” material. Edwards and crew made great pains to add a ton of new and different designs to the Imperial network that we haven’t seen before, yet also mix in a fair share of characters and elements of 1977 “A New Hope” to make people say “Remember that!”. Notice the blue milk near the beginning when Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) comes to the Erso far, or the glimpse of Ponda Baba or Red and Gold leader in the space battel (little tidbit. Red and Gold leader looked so scarily accurate because they used old unused footage from “A New Hope” and spliced their faces over a stunt double’s body).
There is BOTH good and bad in “Rogue One”. I loved many of the new characters and especially liked the grimness of the tale. There are far fewer discrepancies in the plot between the canon Skywalker films and this one than I expected, but there ARE a few. Not to mention that some of the nostalgic add ins don’t always work right. One of the big ones was bringing back Governor Tarkin without Peter Cushing being alive. The CGI used to make the stunt double look real worked MOST of the time, but it was really distracting to myself and my wife personally. On a different note, the glimpse of Carrie Fisher CGI as Princess Leia actually worked quite well. Mostly because it was only a 5 second clip and we didn’t see a whole lot of her talking (it’s always the mouth that looks funky). At the same time, I REALLY loved some of the new characters. Both my wife and I adored Alan Tudyk as K2S0. He kind of reminds me of a mix between R2D2 and C-3P0, containing the sarcasm of R2 and the verboseness of C-3P0. The same goes for Felicity Jones as Jyn, but the two scene stealers are Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn, both of whom can’t seem to turn in a bad performance if they tried.
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action
“Rouge One” was shot using the Arri Alexa 60 camera system, which uses a 6K source material pull and then transferred to a 4K master before being compressed to Blu-ray. The tech geek in me sobs at the fact that Disney has not yet jumped into the 4K waters as this would have been RIPE for the taking with such incredible resolution at their disposal. Sadly, much like Atmos, we’ll have to wait for a later time for that, but the end results in 1080 are nothing short of jaw dropping. The film looks very different from most “Star Wars” Films (something that Gareth Edwards supposedly did on purpose) as the movie has very organic and earthy look to it. The shot where Krennic drops down onto the Erso farm at the beginning looks so foreign and alien, and even the typical “Star Wars” elements like space battles and Mustaphar where Vader is, seems oddly “gritty”. Fine detail is exceptional from beginning to end, with the pits on Ben Mendelsohn’s face showing up clearly and the CGI for many of the alien combatants blending in perfectly with the live action. With so much CGI there’s bound to be SOME smoothness, and while it is present, I didn’t notice it detract from the picture very much. Blacks are deep and inky, making space battles look exceptionally sharp and vivid. Colors are slightly pale and earthy, with a heavy emphasis on deep blues and browns.
Disney’s 7.1 DTS-HD MA track is nothing to sneeze at either. It’s a vibrant and aggressive track that takes full advantage of all 8 channels. The opening theme for “Rogue One” is deep and throaty, with a fully symphonic feel that just swells and rises up to meet the listener. Battle scenes contain some heavy LFE that adds much needed punch to weapon blasts and explosions alike. I never once had to adjust the volume on my receiver even though the dynamic range was pretty impressive. I DID notice that I had to turn up my volume about 3 notches as it was recorded a bit low, but nothing a little level matching didn’t solve. Surrounds get a hefty workout with X-wing fighters screaming through the Eadu canyons and blaster bolts impacting all around. The score is reminiscent of the canon “Jedi” stories without being identical (although the imperial march does come up as well as the ending theme song). While I loved the music and loved the track’s aggression I felt that sometimes the bass was a LITTLE lighter than I would have wanted, especially when comparing with some of the more recent “Star Wars” films like “The Force Awakens”. Noting too wild, but just enough for me to knock it back half a star.
• A Rogue Idea – Hear how ILM's John Knoll came up with the movie's concept – and why it's the right film to launch the Star Wars stand-alone films.
• Jyn: The Rebel – Get to know Rogue One's defiant, resourceful survivor, and hear what it was like for Felicity Jones to bring her to life onscreen.
• Cassian: The Spy – Diego Luna shares insights into his complex, driven character, who becomes a hero through selflessness, perseverance and passion.
• K-2SO: The Droid – Explore the development of this reprogrammed Imperial droid, from initial pitch and character design through Alan Tudyk's performance.
• Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills – Go deeper into the relationship between these two very different characters, with Chinese superstars Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen.
• Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary – Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflect on Saw Gerrera, the broken Rebel leader, and Bodhi Rook, the Imperial pilot who defects.
• The Empire – Meet a dangerous new Imperial adversary…and cross paths once more with the most iconic villain of all time.
• Visions of Hope: The Look of "Rogue One" – The filmmakers describe the challenges and thrills of developing a bold new look for the movie that can fit within the world of the original trilogy.
• The Princess & The Governor – See what it took to bring the vibrant young princess of Star Wars: A New Hope – as well as one of her most memorable foes – back to the screen.
• Epilogue: The Story Continues – Filmmakers and cast celebrate Rogue One's premiere and look forward into the future, to the Star Wars stories yet to be told.
• Rogue Connections – Uncover Easter eggs and film facts hidden throughout the movie that connect Rogue One to the Star Wars universe.
“Rogue One” is both NOT your typical Star Wars tale, and is at the same time. It capture elements of the original trilogy that are simply unmistakable, and builds the world with new locations and new characters to the backstory that expand our understanding the Star Wars universe. It’s not a 100% perfect film, and there are some missteps along the way, but “Rogue One” is just flat out FUN! I didn’t initially dislike it like I did “The Force Awakens” and then warm up to it, but instead unabashedly loved it from the first time I saw it in theaters (emphasis on the FIRST time I blew my paycheck watching it theatrically). Disney has done a good job so far of paying respect to Lucas’s creation while adding their own flair and distinction to the universe, and if this is how good the side “Star Wars” stories are going to be, I am all for more of them. The audio and video are typical Disney perfection and there is actually a decent number of extras on the three-disc set. My only complaint is that Disney seems to have a REALLY shaky view of 3D for the future. With Samsung, Sony and a couple other TV companies announcing that they are giving up on 3D for future sets, Disney has done the Paramount gambit (we all remember the hissy fit that went on when Paramount parted out the extras to differing store exclusives with “Star Trek Into Darkness”) and made three store exclusives and TWO of those exclusives (Target and Best Buy) getting a 3D release. Meaning that if you want the 3D release you HAVE to pick up the Target or Best Buy exclusive to get it (the Target release as special packaging and artwork while the Best Buy exclusive is their Steelbook).
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyck, Mads Mikkelson
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French (Canadian), Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 133 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 4th, 2017
Buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 3D Target Exclusive On Blu-ray at Target
Buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 3D Best Buy Exclusive On Blu-ray at Best Buy
Recommendation: Great Watch
More about Mike