‘Rogue One’ prevails as a space opera spinoff

By Marilyn MacLaren , Staff Writer

In honor of May the 4th, otherwise known as “Star Wars” Day, it’s time to revisit what many fans, including Marvel director James Gunn, have declared the most underrated Star Wars film. The first of the Star Wars anthology series, “Rogue One” (2016) serves as a prequel to the first “Star Wars” film made almost 40 years earlier. Developed from a single line of exposition, the film takes a darker, grittier turn that stands out from its predecessors and gives an edge not seen in other films of this beloved series.

In the scrolling dialogue of “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977), the first installment of the beloved space opera series, the plot of the film is set up through a description of a mission where unknown characters from the rebel alliance began the events of the current film in an adventure that was never touched upon. That is, until now. 

Directed by Gareth Edwards, the film stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, a scavenger getting by in the early days of the Empire, when she joins the rebel alliance in order to find her father and reluctant architect for the Empire Galen Erso, played by Mads Mikkelsen. She is aided by intelligence operator Cassian Andor played by Diego Luna and the reformed droid K-2SO played by Alan Tudyk. Their mission to steal the plans to the Death Star are filled with high stakes that are more personal than the grand scale of warfare seen in other films of the series.  

Jones brings a new depth to Jyn Erso, whose differences compared to other heroines featured in the series show her flaws as the strengths of her character. As a troubled protagonist struggling between the agenda of the rebel alliance and her emotional connection with her father working for the enemy, the complexity of her character creates a compelling arc that is fulfilled via the intensity of her standing up for both her beliefs and her family legacy.

Besides the visual formulaic differences of the film, such as the absence of a scrolling dialogue and familiar scene transitions, the tone of the film sets it apart in the space opera genre as a whole. Characters such as Saw Gerrera, a rebel extremist played by Forest Whitaker, use questionable and dangerous methods to address the current political climate of his home planet, a very true to life element that adds a more gripping, realistic aspect in an otherwise sci-fi-based story.

Although the film sticks close to the themes of the original series and how these events pertain to the main story, the differences in the motivations for the characters — specifically in Jyn Erso and her relationship to her father — is endearing to see and encapsulates the mindset of the rebel alliance with much more personal stakes. The morality of the rebel alliance is also analyzed in a way that shows how the perception of who is the hero and who is the villain is much deeper than a black-and-white way of thinking. 

What makes this film so different from others in the “Star Wars” series is the emotional depth of the sacrifices these characters had to make for the good of the galaxy. Unlike the other films, there is no happy ending for these characters: The last the audience sees of Cassian and Jyn are of their embrace against the blast of the Death Star, sealing their fate. The information they sent to the alliance is painstakingly passed along as rebel soldiers are slaughtered one by one by the main antagonist Darth Vader, with the voice of James Earl Jones reprising the role. “Rogue One (2016) is a fitting prequel that undoubtedly adds to the intensity of the original story and stands out for its emotional impact among the rest of the series.

 

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