This all came as a bit of a fluke. On Thursday I had a slight headache (if you’re my manager) / was still mind-numbingly, vomit-inducingly hungover from yesterday’s Christmas party (if you’re anyone else). One of my co-workers offered me the chance to attend the press screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Nah. Whatever. It’s only one of the year’s most anticipated movies of all time. I’ll pass, me thinks.
I snatched that ticket* so quickly, a cloudy silhouette of my hand remained, like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.
(*I didn’t actually get a physical ticket, but for the benefit of this story, I did, okay?)
Four days later, I was in a tiny theatre in the Dolby offices, plonked behind Mark Kermode. I could have stroked his sleek, grey hair if I wanted. If it were up to me, I’d have watched Felicity Jones run around in a blurry haze, just because I was wearing his iconic glasses. Oh, and that one from Good Morning Britain was also there too.
Just before I sobbed hysterically at being able to cuddle The Observer’s chief film critic, those ten bold, blue words – “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” blasted on the screen. We’ll ignore the fact that there wasn’t an opening crawl. I’ve been drinking since the film finished at 11:10 just to numb that pain.
In a franchise that seemingly has another instalment being announced hourly, Rogue One wasn’t a film we necessarily needed. (Who’s ever squealed “Mate, I cannot wait for the 3.5th movie”?) But Rogue One is an incredible addition, with outstanding costumes, characters, performances and jokes. Thankfully for anyone with a Twitter account, this means the incredibly loyal, and somewhat terrifying, Star Wars fans will be happy with the film. Hooray to not seeing any eggs dealing death threats today!
The first chapter not in the “Episode” franchise, which will later see Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover appear side-by-side in a standalone Han Solo project, follows the story of Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso and her rebel teammates in an attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star. (I feel like I can say that she does get them. If you haven’t seen how A New Hope pans out – a 39 year old movie – then I don’t even feel guilty about spoiling it for you.)
I wish I could sound intellectual and film-savvy when I say this, but… WHO KNEW FELICITY WAS SUCH A BAD-ASS?! She was incredible in The Theory of Everything, I know; but did she wield a blaster and a baton in that, like some butt-kicking rhythmic gymnast? (Only I could turn something so powerful into the most flamboyant profession going.) Star Wars has it’s fair share of strong male protagonists, but Jones’ Jyn is good enough to be up there with them, defying Mon Mothma; single handedly taking down armies of Storm Troopers and – most importantly – making me bump down Daisy Ridley in my top f***ing awesome Star Wars women. (And in case you’re wondering, third’s Leia, and fourth’s Maz Kanata. What can I say? I have a thing for big glasses. And tiny, wrinkled orange women.)
PS: In case you need further evidence of Felicity’s talent, make sure you watch CITV’s Worst Witch from 1998. No. Seriously. YouTube it.
She holds herself amongst a stellar-cast. While I’d have loved to have seen more of Forest Whitaker’s grouchy cyborg, the remaining rebels all shone with varying traits, and remembering each one – despite being introduced amidst a hugely popular franchise – was pretty easy. From Diego Luna’s captain, to a blind swordsman, the characters are all likeable, delivering natural humour throughout. But the real scene stealer is Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO. A droid becoming the most popular character in a Star Wars film? Even Stevie Wonder saw that coming. K-2SO delivers most of the comedy in the film, through his dry, cynical remarks, and if this doesn’t call for Academy Award for Best Inanimate Object category, I don’t know what will. (The only two nominees this year would be K-2SO and Adam Sandler. And I still don’t think he’d stand a chance…)
For me, the only downfall was the movie’s villain. Ben Mendelsohn is great as the antagonist, Orson Krennic; Director of Advanced Weapons Research and Cheif Executive of Having Fabulous Capes. But in a universe with some of – nay, the greatest villain in cinematic history, it seems odd that Orson is just, well, there. He’s as fragile as Star Wars VIII’s Kylo Ren, but doesn’t have that desperation to succeed. There’s no real malice behind what he does; he’s not scary. But – on the other hand – he’s not Count Dooku. So swings and roundabouts, really.
Technically, Rogue One is a visual spectacle; shot by cinematographer Greig Fraser, of Zero Dark Thirty and Foxcatcher, and if Michael Giacchino isn’t nominated an Oscar for his score, I will beat Jimmy’s Kimmels to a pulp with one of them shiny golden blokes.
The film stays true to Episode IV, with costumes and transport reflecting the original movie, but – much like any film of today – is a lot darker; both in tone and general lighting. Luckily for Mon Mothma, she seems to be the only one who isn’t constantly cloaked in a thick layer of grub and dirt, like a surprise guest in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Boasting over eight main characters, it’s a hugely bold move for Disney and director, Gareth Edwards, to take the route they did in the final act. But, gee, what a final act it was. (I just hope my “gee” really expressed how passionately I felt for the final act.) In spite of the constant reshoots, this is a truly beautiful film which, and I cannot believe I’m saying this; may even overshadow The Force Awakens.
And if excellent acting, costumes, plot twists, lighting, special effects, soundtracks, direction and every other aspect of an incredible movie aren’t your cup of tea, Rogue One pissed off Trump-supporters. That’s worth the £12 cinema ticket in itself. Speaking of Donald…
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