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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

ROGUE ONE: THE AFICIONADO VERDICT

It is a period of civil war! The heroes of ROGUE ONE in this lovely IMAX character art poster.

BEWARE: MILD SPOILERS!

With thanks to DISNEY UK, STAR WARS AFICIONADO attended tonight's London press screening of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. To say that the film is the ultimate tribute to the original 1977 adventure created by George Lucas would be a massive understatement, so much so that Gareth Edwards blockbuster literally leads into those events above Tatooine that we were first astonished by all those years ago. ROGUE ONE is thick with further tributes, surprises, in-jokes, discarded material from the Lucasfilm Archives brought to life, and cameos that will have fans delighted and thoroughly screaming to the rooftops with joy. Praise to the behind the scenes team for doing a very good job of bridging the prequel and classic sagas together in that respect. But as for the story and characters, well... with a critical cap on, things feels a little underdeveloped in places (possibly due to too many cooks, as that old saying goes) and there are times when I felt that the full potential of the characters weren't as fully tapped as they should have been. Nonetheless, all of the cast of ROGUE ONE are uniformly excellent and bring their dedication to the screen. Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso is a totally different character to Rey but no less brave, gusty, heroic and inspiring. Special kudos to Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen as Jedha's odd couple heroes Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, and Ben Mendehlson, who should have been the sole villain through the entire film, as the ambitious Krennic.

Working inside a production designed universe far better than the one devised for THE FORCE AWAKENS, Gareth Edwards direction is singular, strong, and a worthy counterforce in stye and storytelling to J.J. Abrams upbeat and driving emotion of EPISODE VII, giving us a genuinely interesting and grittier, more shades of grey adventure set in the timeframe of the saga whose realms are devoid of freedom- aided by some first rate hand-held cinematography. In fact, all of the original plot material on the periphery of, or building up to, the Death Star plans was where I enjoyed the film the most - the opening scenes in Iceland and the sequences on the Force religion world of Jedha proving particularly interesting and ripe for further exploration. It's with the Battle of Scarif, however, in the film's last act, where its clear that some major, and I do mean major, reworking was done (James Bond film editor Stuart Baird's involvement and visual style is noticeable)- with sequences from the ground battle previously seen in the trailers and behind the scenes footage clearly removed and much-missed in favour of a mostly all-new action sequence- I think it unlikely that Edwards original rough cut of ROGUE ONE will ever see the light of day now that its locked up in the Lucasfilm vaults- a shame, really, as it would have been interesting to compare that version to what is ultimately being seen on screen now. We can only assume that it was perhaps just too gritty for Disney's tastes.

Finally, effects-wise, John Knoll and his ILM team are to be congratulated for the incredible work they've pulled off here, not just with the hyperkinetic space battle (everything but the kitchen sink is in there) and action work, but also with their mind boggling attention to detail in bringing back to life a certain popular Grand Moff with such astonishing CGI results that go far beyond anything first attempted with EPISODE I's gangly Gungans back in 1995-1999. And as for that little old Sith Lord Darth Vader? His scenes, judiciously placed, prove well worth the wait and the ticket price alone...

AFICIONADO RATING: An intriguing first experiment/launcher of the standalone series, ROGUE ONE, with its different tone shadings of war and subtle loss, though also packed with eye-candy nostalgia, will surely be a quick-fire, worldwide box office hit, becoming even more appreciated and beloved by fans over time, as its part within the modern STAR WARS life cycle is cemented. 4 out of 5.

With thanks to DISNEY UK.

In London, the ROGUE ONE cast with Edwards and Kennedy at last night's UK wide fan premiere screenings. Image: Stuart C.Wilson/Getty Images for DISNEY UK.

Other UK/US reviews:

Felicity Jones dazzles in elegant grey gown at Rogue One A Star Wars Story screening | Daily Mail Online
Rogue One A Star Wars Story REVIEWED | ShortList Magazine
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review | Movie - Empire
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review: The evil Empire is back with a vengeance
‘Rogue One’ Review: At Last, a ‘Star Wars’ Movie for Grown-ups | Variety
LA Times - 'Rogue One' adds an uneven but thrilling wrinkle to the mythology of 'Star Wars'
Editors React: Is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a worthy addition to the franchise? | Blastr

The cast launch the film for UK fans. Image: DISNEY UK.

Other footage:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Production Designers Neil Lamont & Doug Chiang Interview - YouTube

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 51 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 50 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 49 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 48 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 47 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 46 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 45 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 44 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 43 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 42 - YouTube
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story TV Spot 41 - YouTube

Rogue One Cast Explains Star Wars Characters | Vanity Fair - YouTube
Rogue One Stars Answer the Web's Most Searched Questions | WIRED - YouTube
Producer Kathleen Kennedy UK Premiere Interview - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - YouTube
Donnie Yen UK Premiere Interview - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - YouTube
Ben Mendelsohn UK Premiere Interview - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - YouTube
Felicity Jones UK Premiere Interview - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - YouTube
Rogue One Full Cast Interview - YouTube
Diego Luna UK Premiere Interview - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - YouTube
Felicity Jones press conference Mexico City Star Wars Rogue One - YouTube

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