Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

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A free-standing prequel to the other instalments in the Star Wars franchise brings confusion 

and narrative indigestion.

 

Rogue One

Rogue raider: Jiang Wen in action

 

The thrill is gone. After all the sequels and the prequels and the reboot it must be a task indeed to wring fresh juice out of what, a long, long time ago was a choice cherry. Of course, the temptation is to make any new instalment even bigger and bolder than the last, with more fantastic characters, intriguing planetary outposts and remarkable flying machines. The result then is, inevitably, narrative indigestion. Here, there are just so many characters that even in the space of 133 minutes it’s hard to get a grip on any of them, so why should we care? And there are just as many thematic strands and twists and turns and revelations and subplots that can but lead to bafflement.

 

Having said all that, the director Gareth Edwards and his scriptwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy have brought some appetizing side dishes to the table. For starters, the Birmingham-born Felicity Jones is having a stellar year. Following the $218.65m global take of Inferno, she is receiving rave reviews and Oscar buzz for her performance as a cancer patient in A Monster Calls. And now she’s landed the lead role in the year’s most anticipated movie, playing Jyn Erso, the plucky heroine who’s despatched by the Rebel Alliance to steal the plans of the Death Star. There is a preponderance of English accents, with Riz Ahmed as an Alliance rebel and former Imperial pilot, along with the likes of Alistair Petrie, Ben Daniels and Jonathan Aris. Even a computer-resurrected Peter Cushing is given a decent cameo as the dastardly Grand Moff Tarkin, voiced by Guy Henry. There’s also Mexico’s Diego Luna as a Rebel Alliance fighter, Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn as an unscrupulous Imperial warlord and Denmark’s Mads Mikkelsen as Jyn’s father, while the Chinese actor Jiang Wen brings genuine gravitas to the role of Baze Malbus, a Rebel mercenary. But the real star of the film is K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a giant droid that seems hard-wired for sarcasm. At least nobody can accuse Rogue One of not embracing diversity.

 

It’s a shame, then, that with such a remarkable cast the dialogue is so feeble. Only K-2SO gets any lines worth repeating, while the lower ranks are fed merely clichéd commands and exclamations. The wry wit of Han Solo would seem to be a thing of the past, or, to be temporally accurate, a thing of the future. But where the absence of human interaction and emotional traction lets the side down, the behind-the-scenes talent attempts to compensate. For the special effects, production design, photography, costumes and make-up are all things of wonder – in truth, there’s more excitement buzzing around in the background than there is in front of it.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Peter Cushing, Valene Kane, Genevieve O'Reilly, Jimmy Smits, Alistair Petrie, Warwick Davis, Ben Daniels, Fares Fares, Jonathan Aris, Dolly Gadson, Daniel Mays, Bronson Webb, Geraldine James, Geoff Bell, with the voices of James Earl Jones, Alan Tudyk, Guy Henry and Anthony Daniels.

 

Dir Gareth Edwards, Pro Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel, Screenplay Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, Ph Greig Fraser, Pro Des Doug Chiang and Neil Lamont, Ed John Gilroy, Colin Goudie and Jabez Olssen, Music Michael Giacchino, Costumes David Crossman and Glyn Dillon. 

 

Lucasfilm Ltd-Walt Disney.

133 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 15 December 2016. Cert. 12A.