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Review: “Rogue One”

r1b

So, I finally went to see “Rogue One” last night, at the Brewery Arts Centre here in Kendal. I was, to be honest, scared stiff about seeing it. Would it be ruined (like films today so often are for me, because some selfish, ignorant *******s go to see films now, don’t they?) by a chatty chav talking through it behind me, or by someone scrunching and crunching their way through a huge bag of crisps or popcorn next to me? Would it be as good as all the reviews were saying it is?

Would it be as good as I wanted… as I needed… it to be?

Thankfully the answers to those questions were “No”, “Yes” and “Oh my god, yes”…

Rogue One is actually two different films. If you’re not “into” Star Wars, Rogue One is a brilliant action film in its own right, with likeable heroes, boo-hiss baddies, thrilling spaceship dogfights and lots of edge-of-the-seat suspense. It’s a modern day space age “Guns of Navarone” or “Dirty Dozen”.

But.. if you are into Star Wars – if you have beloved memories of watching the original films, and still have nightmares about sitting through the godawful “prequels”… if the opening notes of the main fanfare always make you grin like an idiot… if the Imperial March makes you start breathing raspily like Darth Vader… if you look at toys of X Wings and TIE Fighters and have to stop yourself from buying one – then Rogue One is wonderful, just wonderful. It looks like Star Wars, sounds like Star Wars, has as huge a heart as Star Wars. I genuinely left the Brewery Arts Centre last night shaking, but grinning too, just as I did in 1977 after watching Star Wars as a kid.

I’m not going to post any spoilers here, don’t worry. I know how much I would have hated having the film ruined for me before seeing it so I absolutely will not do that to anyone else. But I will say that he way it links visually to “Star Wars” – making it look as if it is set in the same universe at the same time as Star Wars by using very familiar technology and locations, costumes, etc – is superb; unlike the prequels, which were just too shiny, too glossy, with technology that looked like it was centuries ahead of that seen in the original trilogy instead, “Rogue One” is very definitely set at the same grubby, troubled time.

And there are lots of lovely visual nods to the original films too, which instantly connect it to those films. Again, not going to say what they are, I want you to experience them for yourselves and have those “That’s just like…!” moments come at you from nowhere. But you will smile. A lot.

And it is a beautiful film to just look at too. There are so many beautiful scenes, so many sighs of wonder as you see something breathtakingly beautiful on the screen that it should come with a warning for people with weak hearts. The views of planets from space are just jaw-droppingly lovely. And the appearance of familiar Empire technology – already seen in the trailers – is deliciously jolting.

As for the characters…. they are all very well written, very grounded, unlike most of the characters in the prequels. As with all good war movies – and at its heart Rogue One is a good old fashioned war movie – it is the story of real, everyday people forced into a fight and forced to do desperate things at a desperate time. Jyn Erso is a kick ass heroine with a  heart, and her war buddies all feel like real people with real histories.

And there is, thankfully, no Jar Jar character in Rogue One. In fact, this film will go a long way towards exorcising your ghosts of the prequels. It will help you forget that “What? You’re having a laugh!!!” gumpf about ‘midochlorians’. It will help you forget a young, mop-topped Annakin shouting “Yippee!” It will help you forget how R2D2 could suddenly and very conveniently fly, and forget that there was as much chemistry between Annakin and Padme as there is between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. And yes, I know some people like those films, and I can find some good things in them too – the last half hour of “Sith” is brilliant – but if you’re at all worried, don’t be. This, THIS is a Star Wars film.

It’s not a perfect film, obviously – no film is perfect. Some scenes go on too long, some plot holes are big enough to fly a Star Destroyer through… but so what? I didn’t care! This is the film I desperately wanted it to be – a genuine Star Wars film that, with the way it looks and feels, picked me up and took me back in time to 1977 when I was 12 and sat in the cinema and was carried away, for the first time, to that galaxy far, far away.  It breathes new life into the whole saga, and made me want to watch Star Wars again right away.

You know what? I actually envy the kids who will be introduced to the Star Wars saga through Rogue One because it will be bigger, grander, nobler because of it.

Sometimes you want something to be good so badly it can’t possibly live up to your expectations. Rogue One did. And I can’t wait to see it again.

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