Cinematic Releases: Remnants of The Used Future - Rogue One (2016) - Reviewed

Worries about Disney turning our beloved Star Wars into a kiddie pool of lightsaber battles and fairy tale princesses have been thwarted by an honest to goodness war film that hinges on the perfection of The Empire Strikes Back. 

After JJ Abrams release of The Force Awakens, fans were split. Some loved its awesome way of retelling the classic A New Hope story with a reinvigorated spin for a new generation of fans. Others wallowed in the way the film played it too safely. This fan is of the notion that Abrams did what he could to try and satisfy a wide audience while giving Star Wars some of its luster back after the minor plot and acting failures of the Lucas prequel trilogy. 

I'm here to tell you that Gareth Edwards delivers a succinct vision with his new semi-prequel, Rogue One. This is an adrenaline infused Star Wars adventure that relies on sheer brilliance at many turns that brings back the light humor, stunning space battles, and the character development that we got with the original three films. And honestly, it's a hard thing to say, but this is the most hardcore entry behind The Empire Strikes Back. Rogue One is a vintage World War II movie dressed up as a science fiction action piece with majestic scenery, interplanetary warfare, and a rogue band of Rebellion misfits hell bent on saving the galaxy from the evils of the Death Star. By now you've heard the comparisons to The Dirty Dozen. That's the closest non sci fi representation I can personally find. Using a mixed band of characters with differing backgrounds and skill sets, this is Star Wars dosed with a pinch of Guardians of the Galaxy (which was in turn obviously influenced by SW). 

There's something special about this Star Wars film that The Force Awakens didn't offer. Don't misread this. I have a deep love and admiration for TFA. However, this rendering of the universe gives us new characters that have nothing to do with the Skywalker legacy, making this the first in the series that breaks from tradition. It actually feels refreshing, freeing and gives audience members something different to latch on to finally. Edwards and his crew of obvious fans do a bang up job creating great action sequences that have weight and depth, and are reminiscent of what we got in the first three SW adventures. Old vehicles are brought back for nostalgia's sake while newer ships are introduced regularly. Unlike The Force Awakens, the fan service here moves the story forward and progresses our gritty group of military have-nots towards a conclusion so perfect I couldn't even believe my eyes. 

There are actual stakes here that haven't been felt before. The battles are brutal. The deaths have emotional impact and characters we learn to love are dispatched like flies. Edwards takes everything we've seen before in the franchise and stirs the pot just enough to make it interesting as he makes the best non-Lucas Star Wars movie we've seen yet. Not to belittle TFA, but this is a heavy step forward from Abrams reliance on a safety net. Gareth Edwards learns from the mistakes of his Godzilla feature (which didn't have enough of the creature in it) and throws so much vintage Star Wars at the screen, fans will be hard pressed not to enjoy the hell out of this. 

Hey Rey. There's a new bad ass chick in town. 

Some audience members may take note that the classic musical themes and the opening crawl are missing from Rogue One which feels a tad unnatural and a bit strange. By the time you really notice, you're thrown into a Star Wars film so worthy, you'll walk out of the theater in absolute awe. George Lucas once said that the initial trilogy had the dirty and battle worn look of a "used future". This is a stunning remnant worthy of what Lucas, Kershner, and Marquand created with the first trilogy. If you're a Star Wars fan and you don't love this movie, I'll be totally shocked. 

With marvelous casting choices, streamlined set design,  a penchant for effects that are ripped from the same page as the practical world of the original 1977 cinematic release, and a hard set war tone that feels relevant to the modern day scourge in the middle east, Rogue One delivers on every front. I cannot say enough good things about Edwards' release. 

A sith only deals in absolutes. Absolutely share this review. 

Check out our podcast on Rogue One. 

And check out some live video from the press screening tonight.