Star Wars prequel Rouge One seems to split fandom down the middle. One group think it is the best film in the series since The Empire Strikes Back. Rumours abound that insiders felt Rogue One was in danger of stealing the thunder of the new entry in the main run of the movies, The Force Awakens.
Others have told me it left them cold, a Star Wars without a heart. A movie that lacks the Skywalker clan with all their ability to create galaxy-spanning chaos isn’t really a Star Wars film at all.
I’m definitely in the first camp. Rogue One is exactly the movie that we wanted Disney to produce once they bought the rights from George Lucas.
Director Gareth Edwards has brought fire to a series that was in danger of becoming as flat as a computer game. The writers have clearly thought “what would actually happen if people were in these situations?” For example, when ships blast off, people are thrust into the air by the force of the engines. These planets feel physically real.
The characters in Rogue One are also much more enticing than their dull counterparts in The Force Awakens. I particularly liked the schizophrenic brutality of K-2SO, a droid that has been stolen from the Empire, albeit one whose reprogramming has not quite erased every element of his previous incarnation.
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has all the gung-ho bravery of Princess Leia, and alongside her, Diego Luna is just superb as Cassian Andor, a rebel captain who actually acts like a rebel – a man whose life is in danger.
In the darker scenes at the start of the movie, Rogue One almost feels like a John Le Carré thriller. Desperate agents are trying to sneak vital information out of a city of spies and informers. It’s as if Gareth Edwards has taken the spirit of the original trilogy and merged it with the best of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
My only gripe is that the film may be a bit too adult. The opening scenes are intentionally bewildering, but I think they would leave a younger viewer very confused indeed. I also have my doubts as to whether many family outings to the cinema should end up with the little ones watching a bloody gun fight. The denouement certainly goes beyond the fantasy battle scenes that usually end up distancing the action from children’s real lives.
Rogue One is a grown-up take on Star Wars, and a fabulous ride. It is so much better than the The Force Awakens that I can’t help wondering whether they should just hand this team control of the whole franchise so that they can re-imagine it all over again.