Arts & Leisure

A Force-ful prequel in “Rogue One”

"ROGUE ONE" fills in some of the gaps in the "Star Wars" saga.

“ROGUE ONE” fills in some of the gaps in the “Star Wars” saga.

By Thom deMartino

The Force is indeed strong with this one.

If you happen to be a fan of the sprawling “Star Wars” space-opera saga, you may, like many, fall on one side of the fence or the other. Either you enjoyed the (later-made) prequels of the original trilogy — or you speak of them only in scowls and hushed tones, for fear of summoning Jar Jar Binks from behind a corner like some dim-witted boogieman fumbling around to ruin something else from your childhood.

LogoforMovieReview“Rogue One” acts as both sequel and prequel — bridging the gap between “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”, and “Episode IV: A New Hope” (what previous generations know as the original “Star Wars.”) Seventeen years have elapsed since the Republic was plunged into darkness and transformed into the Empire, after the masterful power-grab orchestrated by the now-Emperor.

Despite the Empire’s unyielding grip, pockets of resistance have formed, but with little success: in fact, in danger of being extinguished altogether. However, a glimmer of hope endures in the form of an encrypted message sent by Imperial scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), to the Rebel Alliance via defected pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) — who has since been intercepted by the extremist freedom fighter Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

In desperation, the Rebellion springs Galen’s long-lost daughter (and frequent thorn in the Empire’s side) Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) from custody in the hopes of her negotiating with Gerrera — despite her tendency not to play well with others. As she bolts from her liberators, she’s clotheslined by snarky reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) who cheerfully declares “Congratulations! You are being rescued. Please do not resist.”

Accompanied by K-2SO and Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Erso goes in search of Gerrera, the defected pilot, and the message that could be the key to sabotaging the Empire’s rumored super-weapon. But the Empire is not sitting idly by — ambitious Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), under pressure by his superiors, is relentlessly searching for the leak, and fighting to keep control of (and credit for) his project.

While somewhere else, a certain Dark Lord of the Sith stirs…

greatmovielogoMany “Star Wars” aficionados were understandably skeptical about a prequel wedged between the official trilogies, but “Rogue One” has proved to be not only a financial and critical success, but a long-awaited and refreshing treat for the fans. There’s a plethora of “Easter eggs” scattered through the film for the attentive (and the obsessed), along with something which had been missing in the previous prequels: well-written and nuanced characters, facing palpable hazards to life and limb, as well as irrevocable consequences. It’s a film made by fans, for fans, and the love poured into the film is evident in its quality.

One other point to note — some may have noticed that for a saga dubbed “Star Wars,” there really weren’t many outright infantry battles in the previous films (save for “Episode II.”) The oversight is made up for with this piece: some viewers even describing it as “Saving Private Ryan” with aliens, with extended battle sequences that leave the audience feeling as if dropped right in the midst of the carnage.

A long-needed and welcome addition to a beloved series, “Rogue One” brings new life and depth to the “Star Wars” universe, as a fitting bridge between the archetypal trilogies

“Rogue One.” Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn star in this well-needed, and skillfully executed addition to the “Star Wars” saga. Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

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