Rev­o­lu­tion ain’t a party

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CULTURE HK - By EL­IZ­A­BETH KERR

In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story the un­likely Jyn Erso (Felic­ity Jones, In­ferno) is plucked from an im­pe­rial pri­son be­cause her fa­ther, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), is the en­gi­neer work­ing on the Em­pire’s new mys­tery weapon. The Em­pire wants to keep him in line, the Rebel Al­liance wants him dead to stop him from build­ing the su­per weapon, and Jyn just wants to come to terms with the fact that Galen had aban­doned her as a child. She be­comes ca­reer rebel Cas­sian’s (Diego Luna, Y Tu Mama Tam­bien) and Im­pe­rial de­fec­tor Bodhi Rook’s (Riz Ahmed, HBO’s The Night Of) ally in the plot, even­tu­ally putting the plans for what is iden­ti­fied as the Death Star in Princess Leia’s hands.

Di­rec­tor Gareth Ed­wards honed his sto­ry­telling skills with crea­ture fea­tures ( Mon­sters, Godzilla) but prob­a­bly cap­tures the tone and feel of a Star Wars story”more ef­fec­tively than his pre­de­ces­sor, J.J. Abrams. Thrilling as The Force Awak­ens was, it was a re­hash of much that went be­fore it. Rogue One brings us new char­ac­ters, new lo­ca­tions, and most im­por­tantly a new sense of what re­belling against a big­ger, bet­ter-armed, to­tal­i­tar­ian em­pire means. The film’s down­beat mood is rem­i­nis­cent of The Em­pire Strikes Back and the lack of happy end­ings in a bro­ken-down world where the iron grip of an oc­cu­py­ing state (lest we for­get, the rebels are aligned with the demo­cratic ga­lac­tic se­nate) means mis­ery, rage and rad­i­cal­iza­tion. Ed­wards and writ­ers Chris Weitz ( Cin­derella) and Tony Gil­roy (Ja­son Bourne se­ries, Zhang Yi­mou’s up­com­ing The Great Wall) should be com­mended for bring­ing a fresh vibe to the fran­chise.

While Jones and Luna are fine as the de facto he­roes, it’s the sup­port­ing play­ers that give the film its soul. Don­nie Yen as blind Jedi war­rior Chirrut Imwe and Jiang Wen as his guardian Baze Mal­bus win the char­ac­ter sweep­stakes by bring­ing a pal­pa­ble sense of shared history to the friends (Make a movie about these guys!), and Alan Tudyk’s sar­cas­tic voice work as re­pro­grammed Im­pe­rial droid K2SO makes it easy to for­get C3PO. They’re part of an or­gan­i­cally di­verse cast — in a film that doesn’t pan­der and just “is” — adding to the ex­pan­sive feel of the story.

It’s not per­fect. Ben Men­del­sohn’s vil­lain­ous Cren­nic is crim­i­nally un­der­de­vel­oped (a shame, given Men­del­sohn’s tal­ent), as is For­est Whi­taker’s rad­i­cal rebel Saw Ger­rera. There’s some sec­ond act drag, and one vis­ual ef­fect is par­tic­u­larly wob­bly, wel­come as its in­tent may be (you’ ll know it when it comes on screen). But there are plenty of nuggets for diehard fans (blue milk! Gold leader! Mos Eis­ley crim­i­nal scum!) to chew on, and most cru­cially a seam­less con­nec­tion to the rest of the mythol­ogy. Call this Episode 3.5.

It’s easy to look past Rogue One’s mi­nor flaws by the time the heist rolls around, es­pe­cially when pro­duc­tion de­sign­ers Doug Chi­ang and Neil La­mont and cin­e­matog­ra­pher Greig Fraser ( Fox­catcher, Zero Dark Thirty) cre­ate vivid new worlds — oc­cu­pied Jedi strong­hold Jedha, in­dus­trial Eadu — to be­come im­mersed in, as well as recre­ate fa­mil­iar places (Yavin 4) and in­fuse them with new mean­ing.

Like the story that im­me­di­ately fol­lows it, Rogue One is very of the mo­ment, this time as a re­flec­tive sur­face rather than a tonic. It doesn’t threaten The Em­pire

sta­tus as the Star Wars prod­uct stan­dard bearer, but comes close.

The young Han Solo film, though? That could still be a dis­as­ter.

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