Rogue One ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Michael Giacchio’s score that gloriously and seamlessly interlopes John Williams’ famous fanfare from the original Star Wars movies with new music seems like the perfect encapsulation of Gareth Edwards’ task in his stand-alone film. And his biggest achievement is finding and maintaining that fine balance: pleasing the many fanboys out there who has grown up with the franchise and paying due respect to the universe and the narratives set up by the previous films, but without crossing into over-indulgence and gets in the way of the film existing as an exciting and engaging story in its own right. Modelled after The Magnificent Seven, here our random group of characters have to band together for a common goal against all odds and under extreme circumstances where there is no guarantee that anyone of them will succeed, let alone come out alive.  Stick that in the space between Episode 3 (Revenge of the Sith) and 4 (A New Hope) and you have Ep. 3.5, Rogue One – a thrilling ride of a film that’s effective both in terms of its technical achievements as well as its narrative ones, with a well-paced and straightforward structure that keeps most of the contrivances at bay. The refreshingly multi-racial cast also makes perfect box-office sense as it can only help that the crew consists of major Hispanic, Chinese and Indian looking characters that an international audience can relate to. If I have to pick something wrong with the film: the re-animated cameos look a little Pixar-ish, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe perhaps owes a bit too much to Zatoichi and Forrest Whitaker hams it up a bit, coming across as William Shatner playing Frank Booth from Blue Velvet, in space. In a lot of ways, this film is very old-fashioned but that in the end becomes its greatest advantage, throwing us back to a time when a good story well told is more than enough to earn its place in the Star Wars universe and raises the bar even higher after The Force Awakens for the next instalment.

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