Review: Rogue One is the Real Deal

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Vader’s back. That’s really all that matters. Photo/comicbook.com

The Oscars are done with, Hugh Jackman ended his run as Wolverine, and icons — from King Kong to Power Rangers — are burning it up again at cinemas because nostalgia and reboots are all the rage (still). Lost in all the fervor is a little movie called Rogue One: a Star Wars Story, which came out at the end of last year, and remained in theaters for a large chunk of time over the last few months.

What was it up to? No less than grossing over a billion dollars to become the second-highest moneymaker of 2016 (Cap: Civil War being the highest), on top of the second-highest grossing Star Wars movie (behind Force Awakens).

Now it’s headed home to you — from a galaxy far, far away — on Blu-ray and DVD, and it’s really that good. This is one true fans have been waiting for. It will be well worth shelling out the cash to rent, buy, own, and love your copy.

Rescued from a labor camp after years in hiding, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) joins the Rebels in the search for the reclusive Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), a chief engineer on the Death Star who is also a turncoat. Galen is actually working against his Imperial command by — get this — planting a critical flaw capable of destroying said Death Star.

[Hmmm…that one hopefully won’t come back to bite the Empire.]

Rogue One is a direct prequel to New Hope built around explaining a notoriously silly plot MacGuffin from that movie. And whattaya know, it totally works. The film captures the essence of what Star Wars was and should be: a strong fantasy-adventure story rooted in its characters.

Director Gareth Edwards gives us a better Star Wars movie than he did a Godzilla. He doesn’t try to replace/recreate anything or overtly and unabashedly attempt to outdo what came before. Nor does he blind us to any flaws in a bombast of special effects and lens flare.

In fact, keeping Edwards attached to the series and JJ Abrams’ hands off (like with Star Trek) might be best for the franchise. The fundamentals are adhered to here. Cinematography and cuts are under control. Battle sequences are staged carefully without going overboard and visual effects are seamless.

Case in point: Peter Cushing “returning” as Grand Moff Tarkin seriously looks like the man himself back from the dead — whether or not they have the voice right. They ingeniously don’t linger on his face long enough to even give a viewer the chance to think about it. Tarkin has a few scenes and they are edited in such a way that composes him in equal parts close up and from behind.

Peter Cushing has been dead for over 20 years, but nobody will notice the difference. Photo/Cinema Blend
Peter Cushing has been dead for over 20 years, but nobody will notice the difference. Photo/Cinema Blend

Most importantly, what everybody came to see, the inimitable Darth Vader, is given ample time to make his presence felt. Granted, he is not in the majority of the picture but he shows up earlier than you would expect. And he doesn’t shy away from swinging a lightsaber or Force choking dudes either.

Vader isn’t thrown in solely for good measure and you won’t be forced to wait around until the end credits like with other cinematic universes.

To turn a phrase, Rogue One is booked cleverly and amazingly by its handlers. Give it four stars; it’s easily the best of the new movies so far — maybe the best in years. The Blu-ray hits shelves in April.