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“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a welcome addition to the franchise

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Over the weekend, a huge premiere in Los Angeles was held for the blockbuster Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That’s not the notable part though. What’s notable is that the initial buzz out of it was extraordinarily positive. This week, audiences get to see what critics have seen already, which is a brand new Star Wars movie. That alone is a huge deal, even if it’s going to be a yearly occurrence now. It still feels special, which is only helped by how this is getting strong reviews. On the heels of the warmly received Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year, this should also be a huge hit for Disney. That $4 Billion investment is looking pretty good right about now.

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The film is the first Star Wars movie not to be a direct prequel or sequel. It’s not a “saga” story, so it’s basically doing its own thing. In this case, it’s filling in a blank. The plot centers on how the Rebellion stole the plans to the Empire’s big weapon, the Death Star. We follow Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as she teams with a ragtag group of mercenaries, including Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) to pull off the mission. Her reason? Her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) has been coerced by Imperial officer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to design the Death Star. War ensues. Gareth Edwards is in the director’s chair, while the screenplay is credited to Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Chris Weitz, and Gary Whitta. The ensemble cast also includes Forest Whitaker, Jimmy Smits, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk, Wen Jiang, Genevieve O’Reilly, Warwick Davis, the voice of James Earl Jones, and more. Greig Fraser is the cinematographer here, while the score comes from Michael Giacchino.

In contrast to the prequels, this flick is managing to fill in the blanks and answer questions about the original trilogy without feeling superfluous. One big reason seems to be the tone. While this feels like Star Wars, it also puts the emphasis truly on war for the first time. Not just space battles either, but true land warfare, guerrilla style. There’s certainly fan service, including the appearance of Darth Vader, and it’s mainly made for fans of the franchise, but it’s deigned to be a gritty war film at the same time. For the first time, it’s a movie in the franchise that stands out from the pack.

Awards wise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should be a real player on the technical category level. Still, look for an across the board campaign, including Best Picture, Best Director (for Edwards), Best Actress (for Jones), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Gilroy, Knoll, Weitz, and Whitta), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. There’s no way to quite know how this will be received by the Academy, but at least one tech nod or two seems right. Look for noms in Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Original Score, and Visual Effects as the most likely categories for big contention.

Overall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story looks to expand the universe of Star Wars. The release this week will lead to Disney making tons of money, but also tons of fans being absolutely delighted with what they’re seeing. If this works, and it looks like it will, expect more films of this ilk coming in the Star Wars universe. We already have a young Han Solo movie in pre production, but aside from the upcoming Episode flicks, there will be a bigger world being developed. Count on that. For now though, you’ll just have to make due with this one. I suspect most won’t be complaining…

Be sure to check out Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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