The Force strong for Rogue One
‘‘Once Vader showed up, my interest in the rebels' mission took a serious dent.’’ Matthew Dallas
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (M) 134 mins ★★★★
For those who thought ‘reverence’ was too kind a word to describe The Force Awakens’ similarities to George Lucas’ original space opera, this may be the Star Wars movie that restores their faith.
Rogue One is a sidetrack of a sorts, a self-contained adventure with few responsibilities to the greater Star Wars mythology beyond ensuring it winds its way back to the main galactic path at its close.
In telling the tale of how the plans to the original Death Star were stolen, the film-makers were able to devise a new playbook, giving birth to fresh characters and motivations, so long as none of it upsets or contradicts any of the convoluted continuity on either side of it.
This is both the picture’s greatest strength and its ever-present limitation.
Even the most casual of Star Wars fans will know how Rogue One must end before they buy their ticket, it’s the getting there that matters.
The storyline concerning an unlikely band of rebels attempting an impossible mission to steal data that could cripple the Empire’s super weapon always suggested a ‘Dirty half-Dozen in space’ narrative, and that’s just what we get.
Feisty troublemaker Jyn Orso (Felicity Jones) is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to try and secure information smuggled out by her father, an Imperial scientist key to the creation of the Death Star.
The super weapon is feared to have the firepower to destroy planets and ensure the evil Emperor’s reign goes unchallenged.
As she hops planets with stoic rebel captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and obnoxious droid K-2SO the most enjoyable of the new characters - others join their cause, most notably a blind devotee to The Force (Donnie Yen).
Which brings me to the nagging internal monologue that never left my head: ‘‘When do we see Vader? When do we see Vader?’’
And once the dark lord arrives: ‘‘Vader! Vader! Vader!’’
And when there’s a scene change: ‘‘Do we see him again? Do we see him again?’’
The extent to which the presence of Darth Vader, in all his glorious black and badassness, overwhelms Rogue One will likely depend on viewers’ age and level of fondness for the original trilogy.
For someone who as a kid dreamed every night between Star Wars sheets, his introduction is a difficult moment to overcome.
Once Vader showed up, my interest in the rebels’ mission took a serious dent, regardless of the urgent pacing director Gareth Edwards employs in the third act.
We have the melodramatic heart of the entire Star Wars saga brooding in the background, while we’re stuck with sombre rebels making the same short work of stormtroopers as every Star Wars hero who came before them.
It was not a mistake to have Vader in the movie, it’s just hard to not want more of him and to not start feeling this ‘‘Star Wars story’’ may be a little small.
Nevertheless, Rogue One still bears enough wonder, space smarts and devotion to detail for fans to celebrate, and then run home and watch A New Hope with eyes as wide as ever - even if it’s for the 110th time.
Darth Vader in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story