By Cynthia Biddlecomb
“Rogue One” squeezes into the Star Wars narrative chronology just before the story portrayed in the first film, Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977).
Billed as a standalone story, it answers questions about what was going on in the Rebellion against The Empire when Princess Leia messaged Obi-Wan Kenobi, “You’re our only hope!”
Rogue One features a cast of new characters. Jyn Erso is only about six years old when she loses her parents. Her father, Galen, is recaptured by the Empire to continue his work on a major weapons project, while her mother makes a fatal attempt to save him from abduction. We learn later that the man, who soon after rescues Jyn from her hiding place, is none other than Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker of The Last King of Scotland), the infamous leader of the Partisans, an extremist faction of the Rebel Alliance.
The adult Jyn (Felicity Jones of The Theory of Everything and Inferno) has become a guerrilla fighter under the tutelage of Saw Gerrera. Quite able to protect herself, Jyn is survives within the Empire as a rebellious lone wolf. Captured then rescued by the Alliance, she is saved from having been used as bait if the Empire had learned that she is the daughter of Galen Erso, the scientist. The price of her rescue, however, is to help the Rebels. When she learns that her father smuggled a message out for the Rebels, Jyn joins forces with them against the Empire.
Other characters in Rogue One are compelling. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, who is usually on the production side of movies) is an intelligence officer for the Rebels who travels with Jyn to find her father. Along the way, they pick up temple guards, the warrior, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen, a martial arts and action star) and his bodyguard Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang, who is usually on the directing side of things). Bodhi Rook (a bearded Riz Ahmed, who played Aaron Kalloor in Jason Bourne) is a pilot who defected from the Empire to bring Galen Erso’s message to the Rebels. The android of the hour is K-250, a reprogrammed, former Empire droid with a dry sense of humor. The droid and the blind Chirrut lighten this engrossing story a bit, giving us moments of humor and awe.
Through it all, the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance as good fights evil. How this unlikely team of Rebels steals the plans to the weapon forms the nail-biting part of the film. Once the deed is done, we are left marveling at how the plans ever got out.
This film is rated PG-13 “for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action”. Indeed, a great many soldiers for both sides die in the battle scenes, but there is no blood or gore. The main characters are each morally conflicted in some way, giving them more depth and interest than is often the case. Several people have told me they think this film is even better than last year’s “The Force Awakens”. With Star Wars VIII due out late in 2017, and a backstory about Han Solo due out in May 2018, the Star Wars franchise will continue to make money for Disney Studios.