Is Rouge One a better Star Wars film than The Force Awakens?

Rouge One: A Star Wars Story Review

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“The Force is Strong”

So Rogue One released the other day and for the most part has been received positively. There is as expected plenty of people that dislike the film, although a lot of this criticism seems a tad unfair. On pure spectacle alone Rogue One is not only a thoroughly entertaining film but a truly exceptional Star Wars film as well.

Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) a former scientist for the empire is living a humble life with his wife and daughter Jyn, but is torn from this peaceful life by Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) who uses him to complete work on the Death Star. Skip ahead a number of years and Jyn (Felicity Jones) along with a strong cast of misfits join together to steal the Death Star plans for the Rebel Alliance. From there the film follows a pretty straightforward narrative and for anyone who’s seen A New Hope they will know ultimately know how the film will end, not that that’s a bad thing. If anything the fact that the film takes place just before A New Hope and still manages to surprise and add new ideas showcases just how well executed the main narrative is.

The main fault with the film is its slow start, it often drags and the pacing feels off. This downtime however is essential in establishing the main cast of the film, namely the members of Rogue One but also the ambitious decked out in all white Krennic. The film does struggle in getting to know each of the main cast in any great detail apart from Jyn, but each member of the team brings something unique to the table in their actions, dialogue and choice of weaponry. Importantly enough is established by the films climatic end to add emotional depth to the finale. Personally the characters K-2SO and Chrrut steal the show whether it be K-2SO’s sarcastic comments or the badass combat skills of Chrrut taking on Stormtroopers with nothing but a stick. It’s not just the main cast that shine either, but pretty much all the supporting cast, from Mon Mothma and Bail Organa to the undeniably brilliant and downright awe inspiring moments with Darth Vader.

Visually the film is nothing short of spectacular. The Death Star now often overshadowed by even more destructive Sci-Fi armaments such as the Force Awakens own Starkiller base is yet again an imposing and deadly force. It is used expertly throughout the film and is responsible for some of the films most breathtaking shots, whether it be hanging ominously alongside Star Destroyers as it nears completion or unleashing its destructive might on a planet. It’s not just the Death Star that provides a visual treat but pretty much the entire film, from the varied and diverse planets visited to the clinical interiors of imperial installations to the explosive and action packed land and space battles. The battle sequences from the small to the large are worth the price of admission alone. In particular the finale which the film feels like its building up to the entire time is one of the most action packed and adrenaline fuelled  sequence of events to ever grace the big screen. The nitty gritty down in the mud action is perhaps the most dark the Star Wars universe has seen and thus provides a refreshing break from what you would come to expect.

Audio wise the film is on the same level as its visuals. The familiar sounds of the Star Wars universe are all present and accounted for and sound as good as ever. The big difference with Rouge One is that the score is not composed by John Williams but instead by Michael Giacchino. While noticeably different from the work of Williams the soundtrack takes appropriate nods and inspiration from the familiar Star Wars tracks. The result is a soundtrack that sounds like Star Wars but with enough changes to make it something more unique just like the rest of the film.

Perhaps where Rouge One succeeds best is in its ability to be a Star Wars film, it really does feel like a darker grittier version of the original trilogy. It incorporates all the things fans love from the original trilogy and as an added bonus even incorporates some details from the prequel trilogy as well, which is an appreciated touch. There are a number of noticeable nods to the overall franchise but it never loses focus on its identity in that sense it really is a Star Wars story, not a film that is needed or essential to the wider narrative but at the same time is both a thoroughly enjoyable standalone film as well as a masterful prequel to A New Hope.

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