It is undeniable that anything Star Wars is pervasive in pop culture since this franchise exploded into the scene back in 1977. Even if I cannot consider myself a Star Wars fanatic, I did watch the original trilogy (twice!), the prequel trilogy and, just last year, the first episode of the sequel trilogy. Now here comes another spin-off of the original trilogy entitled "Rogue One". I did not know what it was going to be about exactly with all those new characters we see in its trailers, but the hype about this film is simply too difficult to resist.
Jyn Erso was released from captivity by the Rebel Alliance to track down her father Galen, the scientist the Imperial Military captured and coerced to work on their ultimate weapon, the Death Star. Based on information she learned in the course of fulfilling her mission, Jyn, along with rebel officer Cassian Andor and his droid K-2SO, as well as blind warrior Chirrut Imwe, mercenary Baze Malbus and pilot Bodhi Rook, were all forced to go rogue in order to steal the plans of the Death Star from the Imperial Databank on the planet Scarif.
I did not recognize Felicity Jones right away the rough and boyish way she looked here as Jyn. This is already her third big film this year following "Inferno" and "A Monster Calls," each role vastly different from the others. Diego Luna (as Cassian Andor) had certainly grown up a lot since "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and I'd call this film his biggest Hollywood break since that 2001 film.
I was very excited to see that my favorite martial arts star Donnie Yen had a significant role in this film as Chirrut Imwe, a blind fighter who had a strong faith in the Force. Another veteran Chinese actor, Jiang Wen, finally gets his first break in Hollywood in a standout supporting role as Baze Malbus. Riz Ahmed (as pilot Bodhi Rook) first caught mainstream attention in 2014 for his supporting performance in the film "Nightcrawler" as Jake Gyllenhaal's cameraman.
Special mention would have to go to Alan Tudyk who provided the voice for the reprogrammed droid K2SO. He is like the C3PO of this film, being smart-alecky but ultimately delightful with his witty zingers. His caustic yet likable "personality" made his unselfish heroism very moving despite being just a mechanical droid.
Honestly, I did not know what was exactly was going on in the first thirty minutes of the film with the puzzling characters played by Forest Whitaker and Ben Mendelsohn, but as the action picked up, so did my understanding and appreciation for the story. When I saw familiar machines like the All-Terrain Armored Transports and the X-Wing Starfighters and familiar faces like Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) and Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), the connections with the Star Wars saga films became evident. When I heard about the plans to steal and secure the Death Star plans, I immediately saw how the story of this film was actually the direct prequel of "A New Hope".
It was exciting to see the cameos of Grand Morph Tarkin (the late Peter Cushing resurrected in CGI form) and of course, Darth Vader (with the voice of James Earl Jones intact, mouthing quotable quotes like "Be careful not to choke on your aspirations."). Cameos of a couple more beloved Star Wars characters will come our way towards the end, but I think I will just leave those two as pleasant surprises for you to enjoy when you watch this. The very last guest cameo (also a product of CGI) in particular will clearly dovetail right into the story of the first Star Wars film, which was a big thrilling and cheer-inducing moment indeed. We become one with the Force, and the Force is with us. 8/10.