Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) is the much-belated Death Star movie that has blown my mind. I waited 19 years for this film. I first saw the original trilogy as an 11-year-old in Berkeley, California, during an Xmas retreat at a family friend’s homely crib. I knew nothing about the movies but within the hour I was breathless, and convinced I had it in me to construct my own Scottish version of a lightsaber from a bottle of Curaçao triple sec insouciantly sourced from the adults’ cupboard. Then the prequels came along. They were a horror show. Then The Force Awakens (2015) pummelled me into paralysis with its written-by-committee lip-service narrative, snorefest tropes, and dull characters. It was essentially a self-referential tribute act, and boring as fuck.
Rogue One is something else. It both contextualises and expands upon the original trilogy in an exciting way; it’s a masterpiece of pacing and economy of action. Even the political infighting within the upper echelons of the Imperial command system was thrilling (and consequential). There are so many memorable shots in this picture, mise en scène not seen since The Gipper was scratching his balls half-way through his first term in office. It had moments of actual visual transcendence, meaningful and imposing.
Rather than rehashing familiar places to appease the fanboy contingent, we are introduced to hitherto unseen worlds, and existing ones are given new dimensions. There’s a scene on the desert moon of Jedha involving the Empire and the Rebels (now imbued with layers of real moral complexity) that’s Straight Outta the Second Battle of Fallujah (2004), such are the connotations on display. The film became almost a metanarrative here, cinematic allusions and contemporary reality synced to spectacular effect.
This movie is a belter.