(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) looks down a hallway while disguised as an Imperial ground crew member.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a great addition to the Star Wars franchise, but unfortunately it has a very hard time working as a standalone film.

The gist behind the newest Star Wars film is the planning and execution of the events leading up to “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.” This means that it’s all about the rebels discovering and finding the weaknesses in the Death Star, the Empire’s super-weapon capable of destroying planets.

This new timeline means that there’s a whole new set of main characters. Among these are Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and a new droid, K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk).

These characters are very funny, but none shines as much as K-2SO, who doesn’t crack jokes but is brutally honest due to his being a droid. In fact, the only lines that elicited an audible laugh from the audience were K-2SO’s.

However, the characters in the movie are also one of its weaker aspects. They seem a little too “wishy-washy” to be realistic, as many have an epiphany of sorts when their views change dramatically and seemingly instantly.

And the film’s beginning is both chaotic and confusing because in the first 20 or so minutes, it jumps between three or four characters’ perspectives.

(Photo used by permission of Creative Commons)
A “shoretrooper” stands at attention with his gun.

But regardless of the hectic start, the plot is actually quite good. “Rogue One” features an even darker plot than the original trilogy, but more surprisingly it’s darker than even “The Force Awakens.” This film excels in showing the realities of war, and it accentuates the idea that rebellion comes at a price, which is shown by the deaths of many rebels.

This newfound ideology and realism lead to a more engaging and suspenseful plot because anyone can die at any time, regardless of how important they are to the overall plot.

Everyone who has seen the Star Wars movies knows that the rebels will get the plans to the Death Star and eventually destroy it, but not many people know how. This uncertainty, combined with the darker themes and suspense, keeps viewers glued to the screen.

This film also has amazing special effects, surpassing all previous movies in the series. But there is a deeper level to the effects, as shown by some of the returning characters.

The director clearly had some problems when the original actors either didn’t look anything like what they used to or had died before “Rogue One,” seeing as “A New Hope” was released in 1977. This led to an amazing aspect of the film: some of the characters are completely computer-generated.

Unfortunately, this can be both a blessing and a curse. A majority of these computer-generated characters play very minor roles, so the slight differences between reality and CGI is generally unseen.

However, one of the computer characters has a major role. Although he looks perfectly fine when standing still, as soon as he moves you can tell that he isn’t real. It’s amazing that films can accomplish this now, but it’s extremely distracting once you notice he’s not a human actor.

A minor positive is the addition of more types of stormtroopers to the film. These include the completely black-clad “death troopers” and the “shore troopers.”

Something that many Star Wars fans may find surprising is that the iconic title crawl is missing from the beginning of the movie. But this change may be an attempt to solidify “Rogue One” as a standalone film since that’s exactly what it was supposed to be.

However, while the film attempts to be a standalone, it unfortunately just can’t accomplish that feat. Viewers with no previous Star Wars knowledge might think that the film was OK, but nothing more. There are too many characters or general plot points that they would have to understand to fully appreciate the film.

For example, there is no explanation whatsoever of why there’s a rebellion, who leads it, who’s a part of it, or why anyone should care.

Although “Rogue One” is a subpar standalone film, it’s an excellent addition to the Star Wars franchise and one of the best in the current roster of eight.

By Quin LaComb

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