By Joshua Schumacher
“Rogue One” is a 2016 Star Wars film directed by Gareth Edwards. It features an almost entirely original cast of characters and has been enjoyed by fans of the franchise around the world. However, the question of its quality both as a standalone film and within the Star Wars universe stands out to me. Is it good enough that people who have never really seen or cared about Star Wars will be able to sit down, watch it, and understand what’s going on and enjoy it as a standalone movie? Is it good enough to stand among the best films in the series like “The Empire Strikes Back”? These are the questions I’d like to explore while offering my thoughts on the movie. A fair warning: spoilers lie ahead.
To start, one of the things that makes this movie powerful, in my opinion, is its cast. It has a remarkably interesting and diverse cast of primarily original characters. While we do see some characters who’ve shown up here and there within the Star Wars universe such as Grand Moff Tarkin, Mon Mothma, and Saw Gerrera (originally from Star Wars: The Clone Wars), as well as some major staples of the franchise like Darth Vader, the movie doesn’t really rely on these characters too much. Instead, it has its original cast carry the movie.
Most of the characters in this movie are given little to no backstory and are simply introduced to the viewer for what they are, in the moment. For instance, we aren’t given a lot of insight on Andor’s backstory in the movie. All we really know is that he’s a rebel officer and he’s “been in this fight since he was 6 years old”. What does this do for the viewer? In my opinion, it makes the characters easier to accept. Characters who do require more context, like Jyn Erso are given it, but not every person in every movie needs a complex background. Instead of trying to convince the viewer these characters are interesting by explaining a past that’s deeply rooted in the lore, we’re shown the characters are interesting by looking at their actions and choices. As the movie progresses, we’re given more and more reasons to enjoy these characters, not just within the context of Star Wars, but within the context of “Rogue One” itself.
One character I’d like to highlight as an example is Andor. Excluding his TV show, which only exists because of the movie’s success, we don’t know a lot about him. Yet, as we watch the movie, we can see that Andor, while fighting for what he thinks is right, doesn’t really possess a higher ethical standard for doing so. He’s a morally grey character, someone who operates under a “the ends justify the means” line of thinking. This is displayed with his characters introduction, where he shoots another man in the back so he can get away with the intel he needs. However, as the movie continues, Andor doesn’t stay a dark character who does bad things for the right reasons. We see a change when, despite being ordered to, he chooses not to kill Jyn’s father, Galen.
Andor isn’t the only character in this movie who’s compelling. Orson Krennic, the antagonist of the movie, is merciless in pursuing his goals, both for the Empire as well as his own selfish desires. K-2SO, the movie’s attempt at comedic relief, in my opinion, does a far better job than past characters in this role and maintains a serious impact despite him not being taken seriously throughout most of the film. Jyn, originally only invested for the sake of her father, becomes a true believer in the rebellion when things seem most dire. For a first-time viewer, they will get a cast of characters who are convincing, diverse in their motives and goals, interesting and will grow on the viewer.
The character writing is all good and dandy, but how does this movie and its plot fit in and compare to the rest of the Star Wars movies? Simply put, its plot is extremely important to the lore, and it stacks up against most of the other movies well. Taking place just before “A New Hope”, it’s extremely critical to the lore of the franchise. Furthermore, the great writing and strong plot, as well as other things like dialogue, make this one of the best Star Wars movies since “Return of The Jedi”. It far outpaces the prequels as well as the other Disney Star Wars films and is highly enjoyable to almost anyone.
Overall, “Rogue One” is easily one of the most profound, well written, and enjoyable Star Wars movies ever made. It’s a testament to how amazing and enjoyable Star Wars can be for a wide audience and is a must watch for any fan or casual viewer of science fiction.