By Jack Rico
The 1-4-0: #RogueOne is not a better film experience than #TheForceAwakens, but it is a solid sci-fi, action film that provides high entertainment value and some nostalgic “cameos” for old-school fans.
The Gist: The Rebel Alliance recruits Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to work with a team including Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to steal the design schematics of the Empire’s Death Star and to hand it over to Princess Leia which sets off the story line of the 77 classic, A New Hope. For those of you wondering where this film fits in the Star Wars Universe, you can call this Star Wars Part 3.5. It fits between Part III (Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) and Part IV (Star Wars: A New Hope). It is actually a sort of stand alone prequel to Part IV.
What Works: The diverse cast of Asian, Black, Pakistani, Latino and female characters. With Star Wars mainly being a white universe, seeing a culturally diverse cast leading a chapter in the franchise is nothing more than revolutionary. Though we have seen creator George Lucas play with the idea in the prequel trilogy, I had never expected anything like this. Kudos to J.J. Abrams and team for believing that, much like the Broadway musical Hamilton, you can create a blockbuster film with a rich and inclusionary cast and have it be successful. The latest box-office numbers have it opening between $250M to $300M dollars on opening weekend.
Within this new 2016 global framework, the real star of Rogue One is not Felicity Jones, but Mexican actor Diego Luna, who plays Cassian Andor. He’s the one who shines the brightest throughout the whole film. I would equate him to when we first saw Han Solo. There is a macho, sex appeal that oozes off of him on screen. He also receives an incredible amount of screen time too, much more than I anticipated. You have to remember, Latino actors have never really been afforded opportunities to shine in Hollywood blockbuster formats for fear Latinos cannot carry mainstream movies. So for Luna, a mostly known indie Mexican actor, with only one supporting role credit to his name in a high-budget film called Elysium, this is quite a welcome surprise. It will be interesting to see where his career heads from here. Perhaps becoming the first Latino Hollywood action star?
What Doesn’t Work: Felicity Jones. She is the film’s weakest link and it always seemed like that from the trailers. She has no charisma, no magic, she doesn’t pop from the screen like say Daisy Ridley did in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Every line she delivered seemed dull, lacking depth and engaging emotion. She added no imagination whatsoever to her role. I believe she was miscast. Could it be that her physical allure was enough to convince producers she could carry an iconic franchise film?
Pay or Nay: I say pay. From the striking set designs, the diverse cast and the cameos surprises from classic characters, Rogue One is an enjoyable standalone film (meaning this movie won’t have a sequel due to its ending) that anyone can enjoy. It is not better than the nostalgia The Force Awakens delivered, but at this point, any Disney produced Star Wars film will be of excellent fanfare quality.