Some first impressions from tonight’s screening of Rogue One:

This is the Star Wars film that critics of George Lucas’ prequels wanted instead. I told my brother-in law-in the car heading home that Rogue One is a love letter to fans of the original series.

The comparisons to The Force Awakens are inevitable. But these are, I think, two very different films. The Force Awakens was a nakedly cyclical jumpstart to the Star Wars mythology, whereas Rogue One is more of a panache the series’ best (and sometimes its flawed) elements. Those who left The Force Awakens very satisfied may feel frustrated with Rogue One, and vice versa.

Rogue One stands on its own without having seen any of the other Star Wars pictures, but series devotees will get the most delight out of it.

This very well may be the most action-packed, most violent Star Wars film of them all. It is considerably more battle-oriented than The Force Awakens. Lovers of dialogue and character exposition will be disappointed.

Related note: Rogue One’s characters, outside of Felicity Jones’ excellent Jyn Erso, are not that interesting. This is a film of plot and event, not people (and all the Attack of the Clones bashers said, “Amen!”).

Without spoiling, I will say that the filmmakers here have perfected a remarkable technology that will likely transform the entire way movies, especially reboots and sequels, are made. I won’t say more, but you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about after you see the film. The accomplishment is serious, and audiences will leave Rogue One with their impressions formed significantly by this dazzling technological achievement.

All in all, I think this film’s best achievement is recapturing the energy and joy that the Star Wars franchise is known for. The Force Awakens did part of the work, but its nostalgia was often overbearing and rote. Rogue One isn’t as richly imagined as Awakens, but it might be more fun. And isn’t that what counts in the end?

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Posted by Samuel James

Samuel D. James is associate acquisitions editor for Crossway Books.

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