Going rogue: New Star Wars movie fills in space left between episodes

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” are the words that begin some of the most famous movies Hollywood has ever produced. Captivating audiences with lightsaber duels, X-Wing and TIE Fighter battles, and the Skywalker legacy, Star Wars has become a franchise famed around the world. Recently, Disney decided to continue the saga by releasing The Force Awakens, the seventh installment of the series, in December 2015. Along with the new episode, they also released Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It is not technically an episode but instead tells the tale of the mission to steal the Death Star plans that are later used in episode 4. Overall, I thought it was a great movie and a wonderful way to enrich the series.

Before I begin, I must give mention to something that helped me understand Rogue One on a much deeper level. Accompanying the movie was a book, Catalyst, which tells about the Erso family’s past before the movie. If anyone has concerns that it is not canon (meaning the book is accurate and lines up with the real plot), know that the author worked with Lucasfilm and the producers of Rogue One, who consider Catalyst an important supplement.

In the book, readers are introduced to Galen Erso, a brilliant scientist who studies Kyber crystals as a way of providing energy to to planets where access is limited. Unfortunately, he lives in the unstable times of the post Revenge of the Sith world, and though he tries to stay neutral, he finds himself dragged into working with the Empire through an old friend, Orson Krennic. Krennic wants to use Galen’s knowledge of Kyber crystals to create a super-weapon space station being built called the Death Star. Krennic hides the fact that Galen is developing a super-weapon and deceives him to creating much of the Death Star’s weaponry. In the end, Galen, his wife Lyra, and his daughter Jyn flee to a remote planet to escape Krennic’s influence. There is much more besides in the book, but it is at this point that Rogue One takes over.

Rogue One, as previously stated, is the story of the mission to seize the Death Star plans. Probably the hardest part of scripting the movie is the fact that any person who has watched the Star Wars movies already knows the ending: they are successful in obtaining the plans. Somehow, the screenwriters had to figure out a way to get the viewers questioning what they already knew and attached to the characters.

The main team of Rogue One consists of Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso (Galen’s daughter), Diego Luna as Cassian Andor (a member of the rebellion who strictly follows the rules), Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe (a blind man who has complete trust in the Force), Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus (nearly the opposite of Chirrut but his best friend), Riz Ahmed as Bhodi Rook (former Imperial pilot), and the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. In all honesty, it was difficult to keep track of who’s who when watching since they don’t often say the names outright and some actors look similar. Even though the team doesn’t always get along, they end up being a formidable fighting force.

Jyn is the most dynamic character in Rogue One. In the beginning, she starts out not caring about the Empire or the Rebellion. In fact, she doesn’t really care about anyone except for her family. Over the course of the movie, she becomes one of the most devoted people in the Rebellion. Watching the change unfold is one of the most amazing parts of the film.

Overall, my favorite character was K-2SO. As a reprogrammed Imperial droid, he gives some of the best lines in the entire movie. In his first encounter with Jyn, she begins to fight against him and he says in a completely deadpan voice, “Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist.” Throughout the movie, he provides humor in much-needed circumstances, always unintentionally. When Jyn and her friends are debating whether or not one of their plots will work and if they will die in space, he very seriously says “I can survive in space.” When you watch the movie, keep an eye on K-2SO and feel free to laugh.

Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelson) is a mystery to the Rebellion. Even though he works for the Empire, he supposedly has a message for the Rebellion about a fatal weakness he designed in the Death Star. Jyn always loves and trusts in him and believes that he can’t possibly really be working for the Empire. However, there is the constant question of “is Galen good or bad?” that keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats.

Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn) is the character that I love to despise. He’s power-hungry, whiny, and will not let anyone get in the way of him completing the Death Star, not even the Empire itself. Though he is temporarily scared into submission by Darth Vader (who makes a full, glorious return that makes the viewer really understand why he was so feared), that is only a temporary setback. Unfortunately for Krennic, his ambition is his weakness, as revealed towards the end of the movie.

The characters weren’t the only interesting part, though. The plot itself was compelling. Even though I already knew the result, I was holding my breath at several points, wondering what was going to happen next. To my surprise, it took a while for the actual mission to steal the Death Star plans to begin. Much of the rest of it was acquiring the news of the Death Star plans and then, learning what the flaw in the Death Star was. Throughout this, there was a lot of character development and clues to help the viewer unravel who was good and who was bad. Scenes are often action-packed, and those that aren’t are full of the tension that often accompanies galactic politics. The audience is given a broad spectrum of emotions, from heart-stopping fear, to uncontainable joy, to gut-wrenching sadness.

As much as I loved Rogue One, I would not recommend watching it without first seeing at least A New Hope, and preferably the complete series. If someone doesn’t see it, they will lose the “so that’s why it happened!” aspect of the film. If they have watched all of the Star Wars movies, though, then this is definitely next on the list to watch. There is a bit of violence and explosions, so I would not recommend taking young children to see it. I have been alarmed by seeing the number of unusually young children who have watched Rogue One. In short, be cautious and make sure that if you show the movie to kids, they are mature enough. Overall, this is a wonderful addition to the Star Wars universe and I’m happy the original series has been expanded with movies like Rogue One.