Star Wars’ Rogue One – A Standout Standalone in the Galactic Series

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was just about any and everything you could hope for in a story where you (kinda?) know what the overall outcome is. Or at the very least, it is a story which will answer some of those lingering questions a Star Wars movie fan might have had, but were not addressed elsewhere.

Like most films I have gone to the theater to see as of late, I went into Rogue One actually knowing very little about it in terms of plot. Of course, I can’t take full credit for this, since it was widely reported that there were several reshoots done to “correct” some of the issues the studio (Disney) had with the movie even as information was being shared with the public. In most cases, knowing this bit of information would not leave me feeling that good about the movie’s prospects, but I was confident that Disney would spare no expense to prevent a stinker of this magnitude from being dumped into cinemas across the world. With the general popularity and acclaim which came from their first outing as outright owners of the Star Wars property (last year’s The Force Awakens), it seemed a certainty that they would not let the side down.

The only other detail I carried into the theater with me was that Rogue One sits as a bridge between Revenge of the Sith (Episode 3) and A New Hope (Episode 4). That aspect was intriguing to me because I am sure there are about a million stories they could tell that could serve the larger narrative justice – it was more a question of which one they would choose. Overall, it is a welcome addition and can provide any newbies to the franchise a reasonable excuse to gingerly pass by the largely disappointing prequels and start with this movie instead. Sure you miss some of the finer details of the Darth Vader origin story, but from this point in the story, you can figure it out and what you don’t figure out you can have filled in for you by your squad.

What Rogue One aims to do (and accomplishes in my opinion) is to set itself apart in so much as being a Star Wars story that is both familiar and new to us. In terms of setup, Rogue One is more or less a standalone episode. It is therefore essential that the filmmakers take some time to establish these new characters and contextualize them for the audience based on our prior knowledge of the Star Wars universe (or galaxy). Top to bottom, I felt connected to the cast of characters we were introduced to. Further congrats to the creatives at Disney for committing to populating the story with such a diverse array of individuals.

Of course, the challenge is to plot this out (not rushing it) but also move the story along at a pace which continues to engage the audience. My suggestion for those fans who tend to go into their sci-fi space adventures expecting wall-to-wall action packed sequences is to be patient. All of the setup we are given in the beginning culminates with a closing 45 plus minutes that has some really riveting and intense set pieces that are reminiscent of many a wartime-action epic motion picture you may have previously seen on the big screen.

We are also treated to a few “Easter Eggs” that uniquely ties the episodes together. Check your local internets to see if you found some of these gems in your viewing 🙂

Also worth noting that Rogue One is also one of, if not THE  darkest chapter in the Star Wars movie franchise to date (rivaling The Empire Strikes Back [Episode V] for that title IMO). Mind you, it totally makes sense considering where in the larger story we are, but still, be prepared. Be very prepared. Stripping away all the sci-fi and special effects, you are left with a narrative that carries a great deal of pathos and emotional weight. By the end of the proceedings, you may feel that the film’s conclusion was inevitable, but the construction and actions in the film are more than enough to capture your attention and keep you engaged up until that point.

There is probably a whole bunch else that I am leaving out of reaction to Rogue One, but I think you can tell I liked it.

What did you think? Sharing is caring – so hit the Comments section with your thoughts.

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Stays Woke

Usually I would not bother to flag this as a spoiler free post because I generally attempt to leave out major plot details in my reviews, but in this case, I guess I will.

If you have come this far and are still curious about my thoughts, just know that you are in a safe place here with i luv cinema. Granted, I cannot prevent your being spoiled from happening elsewhere (say in the Comments section of a totally unrelated ESPN.com article about LeBron James … yes this happened to someone I know).

But I digress – on with the show….

After a little over a day to compose my thoughts, I can easily say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens easily ranks among the top two for me in the whole Star Wars franchise (the other being The Empire Strikes Back).

Photo is property of Lucasfilm, Ltd.

Photo is property of Lucasfilm, Ltd.

Here are some reactions/observations in the aftermath of watching Episode 7, a film many a fan has waited over 30 years to see:

  • I legit cried AT LEAST 5 times. Yeah you read that correctly. ILC’s heart turned to pure mush during some key – and not so key – moments. A combination of nostalgia and excitement left my emotional compass all over the shop. In the midst of my teary spells there were moments of levity and cheeky humor to be had.
  • Let’s be real – whether we realized it then or admit to it now, many of us who loved Star Wars as children (and adults) certainly detected the intergalactic camp on display. In fact, that is part of the appeal of these original films, for me anyway. While Episode 7 is chiefly devoid of any egregious flights of fancy, there are a few developments that may leave you asking questions. Please don’t take this as a criticism, because it is not. Just keep in mind there is no greater realm for the suspension of disbelief than what science fiction has to offer. Just go with it! Heck, if we can deal with crossbow-wielding teddy bears dancing around in a forest, I think you will be good. And in case you are wondering, there is nothing along those lines in The Force Awakens.
  • Okay so maybe slightly spoilery, (maybe this is actually proving I have NO idea of the finer details of what constitutes a spoiler nowadays) but I genuinely felt a sense of peril for our heroes … When you are in a galaxy far, far away you always know that the conflict between the dark and light side of The Force to contend with, but there is always the hope that the good guys (our good guys) will come out on top. During key scenes when our protagonists were on the run, I really felt the sense of dread and doom. It was an exhilarating and fun thing to experience.
  • Who woulda thunk at the beginning of 2015 that two of my favorite films of the year would be science fiction films featuring Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson. A very satisfying observation. That is all.
  • Newcomers can get the job done. Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) are so cute as our lead pair. Outside of the film, I cannot imagine the mixed emotions Ridley and Boyega are experience being thrust into this whirlwind. But from what I can tell in interviews and various appearances, they have been managing it quite well. One thing that may work to their advantage is the production schedule for Episode 8 (scheduled for release in 2017). This means that soon, they will re-enter the protective bubble that filming a secretive project offers. Side Note: I had a weird moment wowza! when I realized that their character names were Rey and Finn. Totally, if only momentarily, this realization gave me some My Mad Fat Diary feels. If you know that show, I suggest you find a way to catch it … Side Side Note: A chemistry test that translated to the screen – yeah!
  • JJ Abrams is masterful with taking the franchises of his (and my) generation and tapping into a kind of retrospective zeitgeist that makes them accessible to our adult sensibilities as well as those for a new generation. THAT takes skill – bravo!

So yeah I really, really liked Star Wars: Episode 7 (The Force Awakens). I hope that is endorsement enough.

Have you seen it? Let me know what you think!