Although if you're a Star Wars fan and have not watched this, you only have yourself to blame.
I have recently re-watched Rogue One (R1), the first of the planned series of anthology films set in the Star Wars Universe. I enjoyed it immensely when I first saw it when it was released back in 2016, so this time I wanted to see if those memories were being tainted by excitement and nostalgia, and perhaps look at it from a more critical angle.
I'm happy to say that, despite some flaws, it is still one of my personal favorite Star Wars film, for the reasons below:
1. It has the best written female lead in Star Wars
Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, remains one of the most unique and clearly defined female lead in the Star Wars film universe. There was nothing vague about her story and her motivations in the film, her character's arc was fully fleshed out and concluded in the span of a little more than 2 hours in the movie.
Don't get me wrong, Carrie Fisher's spunky Princess Leia is still much loved mainly due to her characterization, but she appeared in the original trilogy already as a Princess of Alderaan, a leader of the Rebel Alliance, with nigh zero explanation why she joined the rebellion in the first place. Granted we don't need an origin story for every character, by Jyn's character resonates stronger with us because she did have an origin story that was complex but effectively laid out .
Rey.....well Rey started of as a copy of Luke Skywalker, her story got muddled halfway through the trilogy and ended with a "meh".
Alan Tudyk, need I say more?
Fine, I'll say more. He is easily the funniest droid character in the Star Wars film franchise, and he wasn't even being overtly humorous. His matter-of-fact nihilistic personality and Tudyk's deadpan delivery of his lines left me in stitches almost everytime.
His short, casual monologue about how if they were shot down in space, everybody in the ship will die except him, was particular memorable.
3. It exposes the Rebel Alliance as a fractured and fragile organization
In the original trilogy (and in the sequel trilogy, in the guise of The Resistance), the Rebel Alliance was portrayed as a unified organization with a singular goal of toppling the evil Empire and restoring the Galactic Republic, and everyone in it were heroically staking their lives to attain that objective.
R1 shows us that was far from the truth, at least before the Battle of Yavin. The Rebel Alliance was in fact a loose alliance of planets governed by tedious bureaucracy and some are ready to leave the table at the first sign of trouble. Indeed, many of the council members were all too ready to concede defeat and surrender once they got word of the Death Star.
This shines a new light on the immense struggle the alliance leadership had to put up just to keep the organization together while fighting the overwhelming odds against a monolithic Empire.
4. Not all the rebels are heroes
More to the previous point, unlike the original trilogy, not all rebel operative act in the most noble manner. The male lead Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) killed his informant in cold blood to protect the alliance's secret, and was ready to execute Galen Erso, Jyn's father, because he was ordered to.
Saw Gerrera, a splintered faction of the Rebel Alliance, strikes at Imperial forces with no concern for innocent citizens.
They are selfless for the cause, but that does not make them a hero. To put it bluntly, many of them were simply fanatics. Indeed, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.
5. No Jedi or Sith
Many have argued that a Star Wars film without the Jedi and the Sith is a blasphemy, though I think more will agree with me that the Star Wars universe is so rich in lore and detail that the Jedi/Sith war are just a tiny part of it.
In the place of laser-sword-wielding space samurais, we are introduced to the Guardian of the Whills, a religious order who based their beliefs of being one with the Force. This opens up many possibilities in the Star Wars canon regarding the many factions that tap into the Force, previously only explored in the Legends continuities.
6. The Battle of Scarif
The Battle of Scarif was one of the most spectacularly portrayed battles in Star Wars films. Although not as large a scale as the Battle of Endor, Battle of Coruscant or Battle of Geonosis, the way it was presented kept me at the edge of the seat throughout.
It was as relentless as it was harrowing, punctuated by moments of highs and lows as well as epic turn of events such as the sequence where a small Hammerhead Corvette kills 2 Imperial Star Destroyers.
The whole thing It was breathtaking in many ways.
7. Bad Ass Vader
The bad-ass Vader sequence towards the end was a totally unexpected, but definitely welcomed. For those who only ever watched the films, it was never quite clear why everyone was so terrified of Darth Vader...well, other than the fact that he can choke you to death from another Star Destroyer.
I still remember the chill I felt when he ignited his red lightsaber in the dark corridor. Indeed, this sequence spelled out in no uncertain terms that if you ever find yourself between Darth Vader and his objective, you should quickly be somewhere else.
8. It was tragic
From the start of the film, it was pretty clear that Jyn and her merry gang of rebels will not survive the endeavor, simply by the fact that they never appeared or even mentioned in the original trilogy. It was apt, and about time that we see the rebellion as a difficult struggle with oft-tragic consequences.
And not just the ending; The origin of Jyn's character, the events that drove her towards the rebellion was not a bed of roses either. So was Cassian's even if it was just mentioned in passing. The conclusion was perfect for both of them, as a happy ending would've undermined their journey to that point. They had to die, so that their story would have more weight.
So, those are my 8 reasons why Rogue One was such a great movie in my books. For me, it works on many levels, even as a non-Star Wars film. What do you think?