Every year for my birthday since I was wee padawan my family re-watches the Star Wars films. When this started it was a fun weekend activity as there were only two films to watch: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, just to give you an idea of how old I am. However, that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and with eleven movies and four television series this tradition takes more than just a few days.
Hence this Throwback Thursday series. This year we decided to watch The Skywalker Saga in modified Machete Cut order. Unlike the Machete Cut we are not annexing The Phantom Menace as I truly believe that, despite the shaky af acting of Pernilla August and the minstrel show that poor Ahmed Best was saddled with in his first job out the gate, it enhances the story that is to come far more than it detracts from it and is pretty damn prescient w/r/t real world problems that have come about in the last twenty years.
However, what will make this particular trip down memory lane different is that we are, for the first time, including the television series as well. With the release of The Rise Of Skywalker and The Mandalorian, knowing the events and characters of The Clone Wars, Rebels and Resistance can only enhance the story.
Not to say we’re not going to go hard, these reviews will actually be critical and nostalgic, but we’re definitely here to have fun.
Which is why we’re starting with Rogue One! I know traditionally you start with A New Hope, but due to the nature of Rogue One and that ending, it flows perfectly into A New Hope and makes the stakes of that movie even higher. It’s also the first movie I would start with if I were showing these films to someone who’d never seen a single Star Wars film in their life. With that being said, let’s get into it!
The Seven Samurai! In Space! Rogue One has rapidly become one of my all time favorites of the SW Universe. Maybe it’s because every character is a fully realized being with backstories and emotional arcs that are important and meaningful. Maybe because they’re all allowed to have humor without being the butt of the joke, I’m looking at you Rian Johnson and how you did Finn dirty in TLJ. Maybe it’s the tight storytelling, there are no superfluous scenes or characters, again TLJ and Rey, Finn and Poe’s entire shitty story arcs come to mind. In any case, I love this movie and what it does for the series.
One of my favorite things about this movie is that it doesn’t sugar coat what it takes to be in the Rebellion. Both Jyn and Cassian are flawed heroes with shaky motives and the honesty and rawness of that is something that, outside of the animated shows, Star Wars hasn’t really given us. Even Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in the original trilogy just needed something to believe in. There’s a dirtiness to our leads, think of that brutal conversation after Galen’s death, that is very real and very organic in a way that lesser writers and directors have struggled with.
However, this movie wouldn’t work nearly as well if the entire ensemble weren’t just as amazing and all credit to the casting directors because my goodness this crew is the shite. From K2SO, the always amazing Alan Tudyk, to Bodhi, played with an innocence and pure goodness by rapper/actor Riz Ahmed, to Chirrut and Baze, who, despite not being Jedi are the only true examples of Jedi, untainted by the dark side, politics or dogmatic adherence to rules, played by Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, each member of the titular Rogue One band of brothers serves to enhance the story and open up the world of Star Wars in a way we haven’t seen since The Thrawn Trilogy.
Not that the film is without its flaws, Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera is wasted, especially when you know his background on Clone Wars. I was truly looking forward to seeing the character that I loved from the show onscreen and while we got him, and Whitaker was great, as always, his character arc makes no sense.
Though Whitaker isn’t the only legacy character here as Jimmy Smits and Genevieve O’Reilly return as Bail Organa and Mon Mothma respectively and seeing them, having been on this journey with these characters for almost 40 years in one way or another, makes what we know is coming, especially with Bail, even more tragic and meaningful. On the Imperial side we get Ben Mendelsohn as sexy arse weasel Krennic. Listen, I don’t know why Ben Mendelsohn does it for me but hot damn if he doesn’t and Krennic is a great bad guy that I almost wish we could get more of. I am utterly fascinated by his weird af relationship with Galen Erso, Mads Mikklesen for once not playing a sociopath, and why he’s so clearly obsessed with him.
The special effects are what truly makes this film wonderful as they seamlessly blend the look and feel of the Prequel films and series with the style A New Hope. Seriously, pay attention to the details on rewatch, there’s so many that make this film flow wonderfully from Revenge Of The Sith with several of the ships, species and weapons we see directly lifted from Clone Wars and Rebels.
All and all Rogue One is a perfect intro into the SW Universe that allows you to really understand the stakes of what’s to come and find new joy in the Rebellion’s huge win in A New Hope.
4.5 Pilots out of Five