“Rogue One” review

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“Rogue One” is technically dense and absolutely worth the watch, even if the viewer has never seen a Star Wars movie before: the independence from the main series means that only a vague understanding of the movies is necessary to appreciate the story.  Its ending is one of the most emotionally powerful endings to a film this reporter has ever seen. It embraces its role as a spinoff from the main series.

At the start of “Rogue One”, most viewers already know how the movie ends–the team will get the plans to the Death Star and they’ll be sent to the Rebellion in Star Wars: Episode IV, and so on.  But what makes “Rogue One” such a good movie was how it built on the themes that exist in Star Wars by showing the conflict with the Empire in a more real, more brutal, grittier light.

From its basic idea, this movie has the opportunity to explore a side of the Star Wars universe that was never covered by the main series–the perspective of ordinary people.  None of the characters in “Rogue One” wield lightsabers aside from Darth Vader, whose presence in the movie feels foreign and foreboding like a real villain, and is shown as this almost godlike entity who can slay dozens of people singlehandedly.  It reminds viewers that lightsaber wielders are rare, and they are inexplicably powerful.

“Rogue One” was impressive cinematically as well.  One especially memorable establishing shot began with an empty view of space.  A single Imperial TIE fighter flies by, and slowly out of the darkness a massive capital ship emerges and then behind it slowly the Death Star begins to reveal itself, until the entire screen is covered with iconic symbols of the Empire.  Experiencing this shot plays with the viewer’s sense of scope, and gives a sort of context to the size and danger of the Empire’s influence.

There are many more examples of masterful control of cinematography, writing and directing in the movie.   The film’s brand new perspective on a well-established universe works in tandem with good writing to create a high-quality movie that adds to the depth of the viewer’s experience with the Star Wars franchise as a whole.

5/5