Disney have handed us two voyages into the Star Wars universe in two years. More characters, more locations, more gizmos; but could Rogue One be one too many? Tim Oxley Smith delves into the new Star Wars spin-off to see for himself.
After JJ Abrams charted an extremely safe course, avoiding the asteroid field of originality with The Force Awakens, Rogue One is like a Star Wars protein shake with added member berries, full of gun battles and espionage and not much else.
On paper (and if I was 8), this sounds absolutely ideal. No one’s asking for another trip to Coruscant or a training montage on Dagobah are they? But it turns out - I am. Even if it looks like it’s a Star Wars film - too much, in fact - it seems Rogue One lacked the goofy magic and the dull bits that make Star Wars what it is.
Rogue One is set between Episode 3: The Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Episode 4: A New Hope (1977). The Empire has begun construction of the Death Star and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the poshest criminal in the galaxy, is incarcerated by the Empire. Unknowingly to her captors, Jyn is the estranged daughter of the Death Star’s chief engineer (played by Mads Mikkelsen). The action begins with the Rebels liberating Jyn so she can learn of the Death Star’s weakness from her father.
This typical Star Wars domestic vs galactic plot moves at light speed to hide its lack of depth. We meet main characters in passing and rely on previous films' narrative arcs to fill in the gaps. I’m sure he’s a nice guy but director Gareth Edwards, known for the latest Godzilla and as a visual effects artist, only manages to reproduce the Force Awakens’ recreation of the first trilogy. Like Force Awakens, there’s no auteurship just a delivered brief from the the boardroom. This could have been Cold War-Star Wars noir - instead it was Star Wars: The Focus Group, leaving Rogue One superficial bombast that’s short of a few midi-chlorians.
There’s also CGI moments that I fear will date as badly as the Special Edition updates of 1997. Like my personal favourite and what I’d imagine it’s like going back to George Lucas’ after a night out.
For a spin-off, Rogue One doesn't show any change of direction, and for a Star Wars, it lacks the original magic. This over-distilled formula has left Rogue One as a Disney-fied Sci-Fi - and it’s a formula that’s working for them, with a $300m opening weekend worldwide. Even though I’ve got serious grievances about Rogue One, you’re still going to see it anyway, because it’s Star Wars.