I’m going to go against the grain here in terms of fans’ and critics’ consensus about Rogue One: just because they can make another movie in the Star Wars franchise doesn’t mean they should.
This assessment is a bit harsh considering the incredible attention to detail director Gareth Edwards paid to getting the Star Wars universe just right. I went to see the movie with my one-year-old son, who was mesmerized by the amazing space ships and the overall galactic universe. (So was I.) It is dazzling and quite true to the spirit of the original Star Wars trilogy from a technical perspective. Fans certainly won’t be disappointed by the special effects, the costumes, and locales. Die-hard fans will also love the exacting attention paid to story details: Rogue One is a direct prequel to the original 1977 Star Wars movie, and helps explain how Luke, as a single fighter pilot, comes to destroy the Death Star.
Similarly, the diversity of the assembled talent should have been represented for all Star Wars movies in the first place: the array of actors from around the world is so refreshing to the Star Wars universe I grew up with, and the prominent presence of women is something even the 1990s series lacked. In fact, the onscreen protagonist is a woman: Felicity Jones stars as Jyn, whose past ultimately catches up with her future as she undertakes the mission to destroy the Death Star. I love this. It’s so empowering and something I know my daughter will appreciate in future years.
So with all this going for it, why am I questioning the existence of Rogue One? Because it lacks the very thing that made the original Star Wars trilogy magical in the first place: heart. And fun. The script is so technical and exacting in getting every story detail in the Star Wars universe correct that the writers forgot the most important part: the audience has to care about these characters and fall in love with them to root for them. Last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens managed to capture that zeitgeist that, when it came to the original Star Wars, made me not only root for but want to be those characters as a kid.
Secondly, non-Star-Wars fans should be able to follow the story to some degree, and they aren’t going to be able to do that easily with Rogue One. Anyone who hasn’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy, preferably recently, is going to be confused (helpful hint: binge watch them before hitting the theater this weekend).
Now that Disney has control of the Star Wars franchise, its sole focus shouldn’t be on churning out one blockbuster Star Wars behemoth after another. But it’s a movie studio, so of course it’s going to. With Rogue One, it was a little more about box office. The technical details of Rogue One are perfect, but in the rush to get this stand-alone flick to the big screen, the magic got lost.
The movie is rated PG-13 and too intense for children under 11. Star Wars enthusiasts 12 and up should be able to handle the battle scenes that include non-graphic killing and some major character deaths.
See Rogue One on the big screen to appreciate the full grandeur of the epic movie in 3D, but expect that you might not fall in love with it.