This isn't a review as much as it is a collection of my thoughts about Rogue One after having seen it twice now in two days. My Star Wars bonafides run all the way back to May 25, 1977 (I saw it at least 17 times that first year, and yes it was in our local theater for almost an entire year.) so life-long fan here.
I bring up the original Star Wars release date not only to establish myself in the timeline but also because that was the last time Star Wars was just a movie. Even people who happen to see Star Wars for the first time after 1977 are not really seeing it for the first time. Star Wars is an integral part of our culture now, often in ways that are contextual and hard to describe. The entire film experience is different now. Mostly because of Star Wars and what happened way back in 1977. The point being that despite the obvious connection to the Star Wars universe, Rogue One is the only Star Wars movie EVER to not be a story about those damn Skywalkers.
And because of that fact Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie since 1977 that can be enjoyed as a movie first and foremost and NOT an experience. It is both exhilarating and off-putting at the same time. The expectations are off. Psychologically the film is new, fresh and yet strangely familiar. I suspect this is why, for some people, the connection to the cast is an issue. I've read this complaint around the internet a bit this week and it is amusing. Amusing because for many people back in 1977 that was a big issue with the first movie. Rogue One has a thousand times the character development that A New Hope had. But, again, these are not Skywalkers. Its weird.
But it is so refreshing. Rogue One reminds me of The Guns of Navarone or The Dirty Dozen, a desperate suicidal mission that can only be done by those dedicated enough to take it on. It is a war movie, a star WARS movie that gives us a ground-level look at the Rebel/Empire conflict from a powerful new perspective that we've never had before. It is the prequel we've always wanted. No stepping in poop jokes here. Nothing even close to a Jar Jar in sight. This movie is serious in ways that Star Wars has never been before, not even in Empire. I'm not going to give any spoilers in this post, but suffice to say that Rogue One puts everything on the table in ways that Empire only pretends to do. (Once you've seen it you'll know what I mean.)
This is the Star Wars of the future. As Disney continues to develop and roll-out new Star Wars adventures every year until the heat death of the universe, more and more films will feature less and less Skywalker family drama. For years some of us have wanted a story set in the universe that had nothing to do with Skywalkers. And Rogue One is as close to that as we could get the first time out. We get two Skywalkers in this one. (I wonder if the young Han Solo movie will have any Skywalkers in it?)
I loved Rogue One. It is a tremendous amount of fun. And it is so well done that it makes every Star Wars movie better. It even makes the prequels slightly better. But mostly it makes the Original Trilogy much more meaningful. Now we know what it took to secure those Death Star plans, the sacrifices that were made, the meaning behind certain strange weaknesses in the plans, and what it took to make it all happen. Rogue One adds an immense and important depth to a story that, while it really didn't need it necessarily, is certainly better off for having it.
This is the side of the Star Wars universe that most excites me. As much as I enjoyed Force Awakens, and I did, the non-Skywalker stories that can be told now are the ones I find most interesting. Rogue One is just the first step in that direction as it really is directly connected to that saga. Hopefully this gives everyone the courage they need to tell even more stories set in a great universe. I hope so.
And, as we know, Rebellions are built on hope.