Felicity Jones leads the cast as Jyn Erso, Mads Mikkelsen (the bad guy in Doctor Strange, Rochefort [the bad guy] in The Three Musketeers from 2011, Le Chiffre [the bad guy] from Casino Royale, Tristan from King Arthur, and he will appear as Gellert Grindlewald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 and is supposedly in the upcoming Indiana Jones film) is her father, Galen [not a bad guy]. Jimmy Smits reprises his role briefly as Bail Organa, and if one of the senators looks familiar, that’s Jonathan Aris, who plays Anderson in Sherlock. Alan Tudyk voices K2. They made good use of CGI in this film considering that this takes place directly before the original trilogy and many of those actors are too old to reprise their roles, or sadly passed away. Grand Moff Tarkin came across excellent.
The Imperials are coming. A family tries to run and hide, but the father stays back to deal with their visitors, after assuring his young daughter that all he does is to protect her. Her mother turns back, but tells the girl to hide and “trust the Force,” fastening a crystal around her neck [okay, could she be an old Jedi Initiate or similar? As revealed later, that crystal is a kyber crystal, which was the heart of a Jedi’s lightsaber…and we know that some Jedi managed to escape the Purge. She could be hiding in plain sight, married to an Imperial scientist, or else, no one is that dumb…two minds] But the girl watches her father greet the visitor, an Imperial governor, Krenic. Galen is instructed to return to the Empire to continue his work. His wife, Lyra steps in to threaten Krenic, but she’s quickly dispatched. The child, Jyn flees. There’s a secret hide-out she curls up in until a family friend retrieves her.
We jump ahead fifteen years and meet Jyn briefly again in a prison. She is rescued by the rebellion and taken to the rebel base on Yavin 4. They need her help; news has come out that an Imperial pilot has defected and is searching for the rebel Saw Guerra. Jyn has a history with Saw; he was the one to rescue her after the incident with Krenic. The pilot is also said to be acting on instructions from Galen. Mon Mothma sends Jyn with Cassian to find the pilot and information he carries about an Imperial weapon.
Grand Moff Tarkin visits Krenic to oversee the final assembly of the Death Star above Jeddha [why do these all look like Tatooine?]. They are harvesting the kyber crystals from an old Jedi temple. The pilot has made his way to Saw Guerrra, but Saw is a paranoid extremist and doesn’t believe the pilot. Cassian and Jyn begin their search, but get caught in an attack by Saw’s men. They also meet a blind guardian who speaks of the Force: “The Force is with me and I am with the Force. And I fear nothing for all is as the Force wills it.” Impressive fighting from both Chirrut and Jyn [which that staff is totally part of a lightsaber hilt]. Chirrut is followed by Baze who carries an arsenal to keep them safe. All four are eventually taken to Saw’s headquarters, but only Jyn is allowed to see the man. The other three find the pilot and when the attack comes, they hightail it out of the compound.
Jyn finally gets to see the message from her father. He obeyed the Empire because he knew that was the only way to destroy them. He designed a flaw in the Death Star; Jyn only needs to recover the plans and get them to the rebellion. Above the planet, Tarkin wants to make an example of Jeddha, so he has the Death Star fire on the holy city; also testing Krenic whether the station is operational. Luckily for Krenic, it is, but Tarkin is also taking over command. Krenic leaves to discover the depths of treachery that came from his science base.
The ragtag crew heads to Eadu to possibly rescue Galen, but we also know that Cassian carries orders to kill Galen. But he hesitates. Then an alliance squadron bombs the area anyway, almost hitting Jyn and mortally wounding Galen. Cassian does rescue Jyn, but they have words later. Director Krenic discovers Galen’s treachery and manages to get away. He appeals to Darth Vader (who may be on Mustafar, not sure since it wasn’t label and why would he return there?). Vader cautions Krenic “be careful not to choke on your aspirations.” Krenic needs to ensure that the Death Star was not sabotaged.
The Alliance is not willing to trust the word of either Erso’s and will not commit their fleet to going after the plans. So a volunteer squadron gathers and they head for the Imperial information station, giving themselves the call sign Rogue One. Jyn and Cassian make it inside the building and Cassian’s sarcastic droid, K2 helps them find the correct data file. But they have to beam out the information; it will be difficult to get it off world. In the meantime, Bail Organa is heading back to Alderran and sends a trustworthy woman to speak to an old Jedi friend. The Alliance finally decides to scramble part of the fleet, led by a few daring leaders (we even see R2 and 3PO for a brief moment. And that is the same Red Leader we’ll see in A New Hope [they used unused shots from New Hope]). A battle takes place over Scariff crashing to Star Destroyers into each other to take out the shield while Jyn tries to align the dish. Krenic is about to kill her, but Cassian limps in to save the day. The couple sits on the beach as the planet is destroyed by the Death Star to protect the Empire’s data.
Vader boards a rebel ship, using his red lightsaber to slash through the men. The disc manages to escape and is beamed to a familiar Rebel Runner with a familiar young woman aboard (another example of CGI).
This all leads directly into Episode IV: A New Hope
My thoughts on the film are mixed. We could guess that it was a foregone conclusion that the new characters introduced would all die by the end of the film because they weren’t in the original trilogy. Cassian [who apparently is getting his own Disney+ show] is not a wholly nice character, which some people would applaud as it builds dynamic. But he’s trying to come off as a cross between Luke Skywalker and Han Solo (look at the shirt he wears in the last few scenes) and he has none of the charm. I applaud him for following his conscious finally but you also want to smack him a lot in the beginning. Jyn is very much like Rey from the sequels which makes it a bit confusing.
Overall, the movie is very slow. It also relies on the audience knowing the current expanded universe; like I had no idea who Saw Guerra was before this but everyone in the film does. [After watching some of Rebels, I did catch the shout out to General Syndulla (Hera), but it’s so small that you don’t notice it if it means nothing to you]. I wish we saw more of the battle at Scariff (it has been noted that Star Wars finally made a tropical beach base; then blew it up with the Death Star…this is why we can’t have nice things)
Speaking of Rebels, I have watched some of the first two season (and I hesitate to continue because I am aware of some things that happen and not sure I really want to actively sit and watch that) and it is hilarious. Lots of good banter, wonderful to see some familiar faces. And the family dynamic of the crew is heartwarming. This is why Jedi should be allowed to have families! I totally recommend the show.
Up Next: The one that started it all, A New Hope