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szdaily -> Movies
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
    2017-January-6  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    THE first “Star Wars” stand-alone movie, directed by Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, takes place before the events of the original 1977 “Star Wars.”

    “Rogue One” definitely puts the war back into “Star Wars.” It may call itself rogue, but this first stand-alone feature in the series officially unconnected with any of the previous entries fits comfortably in the universe George Lucas was born 40 years ago. Loaded with more battle action than any of its seven predecessors, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” plays like a setup for the events in the 1977 original and, for the most part, does so quite entertainingly.

    Ingratiatingly rough and rugged and decked out with a rainbow coalition of actors from all over the world, in addition to a new droid who steals every scene it’s in, the yarn is set at a time when the fearsome Death Star is in the final stages of preparation before its massively lethal powers can be unleashed on the opposition.

    Led by a young woman whose brilliant father was coerced into designing the enormous home base for the evil Empire, the gang of interplanetary misfits here will be compared to any number of Earth-bound cinematic predecessors — the Wild Bunch, the Dirty Dozen, the Magnificent Seven, etc. — even if some of its members don’t quite emanate the charisma of their cinematic forebears.

    But director Gareth Edwards, whose low-budget debut feature Monsters was more than a few leagues better than his mixed-bag Godzilla redo, knows what he’s up to here. Shooting in a more spontaneous-feeling manner than his series predecessors that keeps the energy high and both the actors and the audience on their toes, the director builds up to a gigantic third-act showdown that plays like a sci-fi version of the Battle of Iwo Jima, complete with a tropical island.

    As in “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One” screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy center on a female warrior driven by destiny to take on the mightiest power in the galaxy. Played by Felicity Jones, who physically could easily pass for the older sister of Force star Daisy Ridley, Jyn Erso has grown up under the cloud of her brilliant scientist father’s reputation as a traitor for having gone over to the Dark Side when, in fact, he was captured and coerced into designing the Death Star.

    It’s not giving away too much to say that the whole plot hinges on Jyn’s knowledge that her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), has secretly supplied the mammoth man-made war factory with an Achilles heel, a fatal flaw leaving it vulnerable to destruction by someone with the right key. This job naturally falls to his resourceful daughter, who, in the film’s initial stretch, zooms around to a dizzying array of different planets, where she scoops up misfit warriors to join her long-shot enterprise.

    These far-flung lands provide a nice workout for the production and costume designers, who have labored extensively to give them all distinctive looks. One is an imperial labor camp, another a sort-of Middle Eastern-style commercial fleshpot, some more thoroughly policed by Stormtroopers than others. With Jyn from the outset is the droid K-2SO, who’s a more useful, resourceful and sarcastic version of C-3PO. Beautifully designed and voiced with droll wit and exquisite timing by Alan Tudyk, he’s the most useful of Jyn’s cohorts, as well as the most entertaining.

    Also engaging is Hong Kong “Ip Man” star Donnie Yen’s blind swordsman, who is amusingly able to avoid harm’s way while doing expert damage to enemies by virtue of his other heightened senses. Supplying more muscle is Chinese actor Jiang Wen as a lone warrior, and filling out the team are Diego Luna as a rebel spy and Riz Ahmed playing a pilot who’s defected to the Alliance. A hirsute Forest Whitaker turns up briefly as a lone wolf outlaw who raised Jyn in her father’s absence.

    What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega’s Finn in “The Force Awakens”) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm.

    The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen. (SD-Agencies)

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