Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Movie Review: 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' (With Blu-ray Specifications)

We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope. - Jyn Erso

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the eighth live-action feature film in the Star Wars saga and a direct prequel to George Lucas's original Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Directed by Gareth Edwards (who also directed 2014's Godzilla) and written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy (from an original story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta), Rogue One is the first in a series of stand-alone Star Wars Anthology movies produced by Lucasfilm Limited and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Rogue One was conceived by John Knoll, the chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and supervisor of visual effects for Lucas's Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. He came up with the concept of making a movie that explained the back story of A New Hope's famous opening crawl 10 years before Lucasfilm's new chairman, Kathleen Kennedy, approved it. 

This crawl, in a nutshell, is the genesis of Rogue One. (C) 1977 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

 The Film:

Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, and Jiang Wen, Rogue One mixes Star Wars lore from the Prequel Era (including The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels TV series) and the Original Trilogy. It blends these elements with themes and tropes borrowed liberally from World War II action films (Saving Private Ryan, The Guns of Navarone) and darker movies, such as Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner.

The film begins with a short prologue set 16 years before the main story. Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is hiding on the planet Lah'mu with his wife Lyra (Valerie Kane) and young daughter Jyn (Beau Gadsdon), pretending to be a simple farmer in order to escape the notice of Imperial Commander Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the director of the Empire's Advanced Weapons Research Program. A brilliant scientist who specializes in the use of kyber crystals to create vast amounts of energy, Erso once worked with Krennic on the secret Celestial Power project, the Empire's top secret operation to develop and build the Death Star, but escaped from Coruscant with Lyra and Jyn when he discovered what Krennic and the Empire were up to.

Orson Krennic: You're a hard man to find, Galen. But farming? Really? For a man of your talents?

Galen Erso: It's a peaceful life.

But Krennic and a squad of death troopers show up at Erso's farm to press-gang Galen and his family to return to the Death Star project. Galen tries to fool Krennic into thinking that grief over Lyra's "death" has made him forgetful and therefore useless to the Empire. Krennic, however, doesn't believe his former friend, and when Lyra attempts to intervene with blaster in hand, the Imperial officer doesn't hesitate to order her execution. As an enraged Krennic orders his death troopers to find the Ersos' child, Jyn hides in a secret chamber until she's rescued some time later by her parents' old friend, Rebel leader Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

[after choke-slamming Jyn for trying to escape] Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist.

A decade and a half later, Jyn (Felicity Jones) finds herself a captive of the Empire at the labor camp at Wobani. Luckily, her stay there is cut short when a Rebel team led by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and a reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (voice of Alan Tudyk).

Meanwhile, Imperial shuttle pilot Bohdi Rook (Riz Ahmed) defects to the Rebellion and seeks out Saw Gerrera in the Holy City of Jedha, site of a former Jedi Temple which the Empire has plundered in order to get kyber crystals for its Death Star project.

Jyn is spirited to the Rebels' hidden fortress on Yavin Four. There, the Alliance High Command, led by Chancellor Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) asks Jyn help the Rebellion by rescuing her father to get more data about the Empire's new ultimate weapon. At the same time, General Draven (Alistair Petrie) secretly orders Cassian to assassinate Galen to make sure the Death Star's main designer can't collaborate with Krennic and Governor Wilhuff Tarkin any further.

Joined by a motley crew that includes Guardians of the Whills Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Yiang), Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO set off on a daring mission to find Galen Erso - and seek a way to destroy the dreaded Death Star before it is unleashed upon the galaxy.

My Take:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an exciting, action-packed movie that successfully evokes the zeitgeist of George Lucas's original 1977 blockbuster while still benefiting from 21st Century film-making techniques. The storytelling choice made by John Knoll, Gary Whitta, Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, and Gareth Edwards to make Rogue One a direct prequel to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was brilliant.

As Peter Travers wrote in his review of Rogue One in Rolling Stone:

Talk about a blast from the past – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story literally is just that. Taking place just before the events of the first released Star Wars movie in 1977, this spin-off/prequel has the same primitive, lived-in, emotional, loopy, let's-put-on-a-show spirit that made us fall in love with the original trilogy.
And after IGN's Eric Goldman informs us in his review that Star Wars creator "George Lucas is said to have loved Rogue One, as it so expertly recreates the world of his original Star Wars film," he comments: 

Rogue One is a movie crammed with fan service, but when fan service is done this well, there’s little to complain about and much to adore. The film offers a remarkable recreation of the original Star Wars’ world, while exploring this universe from a different, edgier perspective than is the norm.
What Goldman is referring to is not only that the film is full of references to other Lucas-created productions such as the Prequel Trilogy, the Original Trilogy, and The Clone Wars, but that Edwards and the writers decided to make Rogue One feel grittier, more war-like, and even give the Rebellion a more morally ambiguous cast of characters.

Unlike the main Skywalker saga's of numbered Episodes, the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire isn't simply a matter of clear-cut black-and-white conflict. In Rogue One, there's a scene that's practically right out of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War-set take on Heart of Darkness.

When Gen. Draven takes Cassian off to one side during the mission briefing on Yavin Four, he coldly says this about what to do with Galen Erso during the rescue mission to Eadu, "There will be no extraction. You find him? You kill him…those are your orders."

In previous Star Wars movies, the only characters who give orders to "terminate so and so with extreme prejudice" are the cold, gray-uniformed Imperials, Darth Vader, or the Emperor. So to see the "good guys" showing this sort of moral ambivalence in Rogue One is strange but exhilarating, too. This puts the "wars" back in Star Wars, in a manner of speaking, which is fitting in the context of this movie. 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is possibly the best film of the franchise since 1980's The Empire Strikes Back. Though billed as a stand-alone film in Disney-Lucasfilm's Star Wars Anthology series, its plot and some of the secondary characters are closely connected with the events of A New Hope.  Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, General Jan Dodonna, and other familiar characters have a bit of screen time, some of it made possible by the clever use of archival footage from A New Hope, and other bits by the use of doubles, recreated costumes, and the application of modern digital effects.

 (Oh, and regarding everyone's favorite Sith Lord: Not only do we finally get to see his castle fortress on a remote and fiery world, but great care was used in recreating his armored suit to look like the one used to film Star Wars back in 1976.) 

So, yes, Star Wars fans, the magic - er...the Force - is back with Rogue One. Despite its grittier, more combat-movie ethos, Gareth Edwards' movie is a joy to watch. With a brilliant score composed by Michael Giacchino and breathtaking photography by cinematographer Greig Fraser, Rogue One hits all the right notes, musically, visually, and emotionally. 

Blu-ray Specifications

(C) 2017 Lucasfilm and Buena Vista Home Entertainment 


  • Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (33.98 Mbps)
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
  • Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1


  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
  • French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)


  • English SDH, French, Spanish


  • Blu-ray Disc
  • Three-disc set (1 BD-25, 1 BD-50, 1 DVD)
  • iTunes digital copy
  • Digital copy
  • DVD copy


  • Slipcover in original pressing


  • Region A