Surprise, Surprise. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t just blatant milking of the franchise. In many ways, it deserves to be Episode 3.5.
Research scientist Galen Erso defects from the Empire but is captured and forced to complete the construction of the Death Star. Before he is taken, he manages to send away his daughter, Jyn. Fifteen years later, a grown-up Jyn is held in imperial custody but is rescued by the Rebels. She is then told that Galen, still alive, has sent word about a weakness he has designed into the Death Star. Together with a small group of Rebels, Jyn sets out to rescue her father and to collect the all-important information.
I wasn’t too excited about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Like some fans, I worried about this being final proof of our beloved franchise descending into permanent sequelitis. At the same time, I’ve also hated the awful “expanded universe” novels for years. Their formula seems always a case of 1) new world and characters, 2) unprecedented new crisis, and 3) kill everything to demonstrate severity of crisis. Just reading the synopsis for Rogue One gave me the feeling of another (yet) untold Star Wars story. Another attempt to milk the Star Wars brand with some quick and bland plotting.
Well, Rogue One uses this formula too, but the difference is it actually manages to make it work. The story pulls no surprise, given we already know the eventual outcome since the 70s. But through skillful storytelling and pacing, there is never one dull moment. In fact, the story actually completes and elevates A New Hope, beginning with how it clarifies once and for all the immediate events leaping to that episode. And then there are the cameos, achieved through marvellous CGI and dropped tastefully into the show at just the right moments. On these, this is fan service that is delicious but never in-your-face. If anything, it vastly refines the approach used in The Force Awakens. Fans get what they want, but that is not all there is to look forward to.
PS: For those yet to watch, cameos don’t come just from the movies. Rebels is considered canon. Hint hint.
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