The Corner

How Awesome Was Rogue One? Let Me Count the Ways

I was going to write a review of “Rogue One,” but I decided it would be too gushing to be taken seriously. After all, National Review is an intellectual journal, and intellectuals are supposed to analyze texts and subtexts and find the hidden flaws in even the greatest films. Screw that. This is the new, revitalized Star Wars franchise, and the new, revitalized franchise is awesome. So let me write a spoiler-laden list of the ten best elements of one of a top-four addition to the franchise. Did I say spoiler-laden? I meant it. So, SPOILERS!

1. The lack of politics was awesome. Don’t let anyone tell you the film was political. It wasn’t. This was old-fashioned, classic rebels versus empire, not new-fangled prequel intergalactic U.N. nonsense — where the Jedi were basically lopping off heads to maintain trade agreements with the Outer Rim.

2. The Death Star was awesome. Seeing it appear in the sky during the last battle? The coolest.

3. The arrival of the rebel fleet was awesome. There’s something about seeing immense ships suddenly drop out of hyperspace that gets me every time. You can throw a terrible plot on top of lame dialog and add in French subtitles, but if you throw in a battlecruiser dropping out of hyperspace, then I’m seeing that movie.

4. The final battle was awesome. What separates Episodes 4, 6, and 7 from the pack? Killer final battles (“Empire” is still the best, however, despite its relative lack of starship combat.) Throw in an air/land/space conflagration — complete with a Star Destroyer collision — and you’re cooking with diesel. 

5. Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were awesome. The deadly duo — one wielding a stick and the other what looked like the blaster version of a minigun — stole all their scenes. 

6. Darth Vader was awesome. When he boarded the rebel ship and marched relentlessly down the halls — tossing bodies like rag dolls — the whole theater experienced the true power of the Dark Side. A great moment.

7. Felicity Jones was awesome. It’s apparently mandatory to cast a British actress as lead in a new Star Wars film, but the franchise is two-for-two.Daisy Ridley was excellent as Rey, and Jones’s Jyn Erso struck exactly the right note in a film that’s dark by Star Wars standards — dark but not too dark. 

8. The special effects were awesome. Less CGI and more practical effects make a difference. CGI makes anything possible, but despite astounding technical advances, “anything” still tends to look less real than the “real” effects that hearken back to the original trilogy.

9. The droid, K-250, was awesome. Finally, a sarcastic droid. You knew they had to exist.

10. The ending was the most awesome. Honestly, it was so thoroughly perfect, so well-executed, that it was one of those rare movies where the destination helped make the journey even more enjoyable. In case someone plowed through the first nine points even in spite of the spoiler warning, I won’t break down all the details here, but let’s say that I left the theater desperately wishing that I could stay seated and roll into “A New Hope.”

Oh, and I do actually get what Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff was saying with it’s much-mocked piece declaring that this was the Star Wars film that truly emphasized the war. Sorry, but he’s right. Most of the other films are set against the backdrop of war and certainly emphasize the war in extended scenes, but they’re mainly about something else — the hero’s journey, betrayal, redemption. The ending of “Rogue One” brings this film home to its core theme. This is war. It’s PG war, to be sure, but it’s still war, and in war the costs are unacceptably high. 

On my just-made-up Star Wars review scale, I give “Rogue One” three-and-a-half lightsabers (out of four). Now, how many days until Episode 8?

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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