Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an amazing film that was built on the foundation of what made the original trilogy a cinematic icon. However its biggest flaw was that it was trying to play it safe while pandering to the audiences nostalgia. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a more risky film set in the boundaries of a familiar story.
Rogue One attempts to tell a unique Star Wars story while taking several major risks. Among them are the absence of the Jedi while familiar characters are reduced to having minor roles. The result is another great film that fans will enjoy without being heavily dependent on the nostalgia factor.
Director Gareth Edwards presents a side-story prequel set before the events of A New Hope and follows a group of outcasts attempting to uncover information about the Empires new super weapon. Jyn Erso is recruited by the Rebel Alliance to find her father, who is the scientist responsible for the development of the Death Star.
Doing something different is always a risky gamble but it has paid off for this film. While The Force Awakens was too dependent on nostalgia, Rogue One had took it easy with the member berries. Instead we have a “Commando of the Damned” trying to set in motion the downfall of the Empire in a story that blends the optimism of A New Hope with the pessimism of The Empire Strikes Back. Also one has to appreciate that despite the setup, it avoids the troupes used in every revenge film.
Even though the film avoided the mistakes of The Force Awakens, it does have several moments of unnecessary nostalgia. Many of these moments were obviously shoehorned in and offering nothing to the overall story. Other times it tries to pass nostalgia as something new, most notable how Admiral Raddus is a stand-in for Admiral Ackbar. Not helping was bring back the late Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin using CGI technology (seriously when has this ever worked?).
While it does fail with the nostalgia factor, Rogue One succeeds in paying homage to what influenced the original trilogy. Any true film buff would have spotted the tribute to the work of Akira Kurosawa at the films start. This was no accident given that Lucas had stated that The Hidden Fortress was the inspiration for A New Hope. As the story progresses, one could easily recognize the many reference to the Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers series along with tributes to The Fighting Devil Dogs.
Outside of the homage, audiences are given a first hand look into the brutality of the Galactic Empire. While past films made casual references to the Third Reich, Rogue One goes more in-depth in the comparing the Empires control over the galaxy with the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War II.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the kind of film fans need, one that respects the lore while being original. Despite the risks, it succeeds in telling a unique story set in the boundaries of a familiar lore without depending on nostalgia.
Final Score: 9/10
Disclaimer: I bought my ticket and watched the film at Camera 7.