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Rogue One INFO

Release Date: December 16, 2016
Rating: PG

Year    :   2016
By    :   United States of America
Director    :   Gareth Edwards
Genre    :   Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Duration    :   123 mins. (02:03:21)
Budget    :   $410,000,000
Age    :   13+

The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans to the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

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Suicide Squad (2016)
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Disney paid more than 4 billion dollars for the rights to Star Wars. If you do the math you quickly realize that, even if they produce the final 3 films in George Lucas’ proposed trilogy of trilogies and each of those films nets a tidy 1 billion dollars in profit (unlikely) they still need to come up with another billion dollars plus in order just to break even. Hence the anonymous bean counters around the decision making desk at the Mouse House have decided to take a page out of the Marvel playbook and create their own ‘extended universe’, which kicks off December 16th with the “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” full movie.

Truth be told this idea of an extended universe goes way back and includes George Lucas’ decision (in the wake of the success of the original trilogy) to create gobs of ancillary properties all more or less attached in some tenuous way to the world of Luke, Leia, Han et al. There were cartoons, animated films, comic books, graphic novels and of course toys, so many toys… And now there's Rogue One. Let’s have a look.

The Story: What We Know and Don’t Know

If you’re a fan of the Star Wars films you remember the line from “Return of the Jedi” where Mon Mothma, speaking of how she got hold of plans for the second death star says “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” Now if you’ve watched the trailers for Rogue One you know that the premise of the new film is that an incredibly diverse group of rebels are enlisted to gather information on the Empire’s new death star (at some point Disney is going to have to stop hanging everything Star Wars from death stars, but that day apparently isn’t here yet). You’ll even notice that Mon Mothma herself appears in the trailer (although played here by Genevieve O’Reilly and not original MM Caroline Blakiston). This fact has led some to conclude that “Many Bothans will die during the Rogue One full movie”.

Not so. While it seems pretty clear that idea for the Rogue One full movie narrative grew, at least in part, out of that line from Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the events in Rogue One actually occur during the time between the end of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and the beginning of Episode IV: A New Hope (or Star Wars as we like to think of it). So the death star in Rogue One is the death star from Episode IV, not the death star from Episode VI. Therefore no Bothans are likely to die during Rogue One.

Now that the Bothans are out of immediate danger what else do we know about the narrative for the Rogue One full movie? Frankly not much, although here are the narrative clues we’ve been able to discern by dissecting the trailers.

The story revolves around a young rebellious sort named Jyn Erso. As with most people in the Star Wars universe she isn’t the offspring of the local green grocer. Instead the trailers indicate that she’s the daughter of the Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), Mr Death Star himself. The “final” trailer indicates Mon is interested in speaking with Jyn specifically because she believes Jyn has an in with pops who can supply priceless inside information on the death star (Pssst! Just drop a bomb down the ventilator shaft and the whole thing will blow!). But Jyn of course is estranged from daddy-O. At least at the start of the film.

The trailers also introduce us some of the other characters, although there’s precious little information regarding what they’re specific roles will be other than to look honest, sincere, wise and tough. The last two trailers, perhaps responding to Disney concern that the Rogue One idea wasn’t resonating with die hard Star Wars fans - went all Darth Vader on us both visually and in the use of the Dark One’s leitmotif. They also had copious shots of imperial walkers, tie fighters, star destroyers and Darth Vader. What? I mentioned him already?

True to form this Star Wars property doesn’t boast any particularly big names but instead relies on actors who are vaguely familiar to a lot of people but who haven’t yet created a brand presence for themselves.

  • Felicity Jones — Jyn Erso

    The latest attempt at creating a Ripley for a new generation sees Felicity Jones starring as Jyn Erso. Jones herself is a veteran of a number of low visibility efforts including “The Theory of Everything”, “Brideshead Revisited”, “The Tempest” and more. As Jyn she plays a roguish character with a roguish past who, like Daisy Ridley’s “Rey” in Episode VII, has been on her own for a long time and somehow managed to learn world class MMA skills while wandering the wild.

  • Mads Mikkelsen — Galen Erso

    Mikkelsen was little known outside his native Denmark until he was cast in what became the best James Bond movie ever made: 2006’s “Casino Royale”. Since then he’s appeared in everything from the “Clash of the Titans” remake alongside Sam Worthington, to the controversial Rihanna video “Bitch Better Have My Money” and the upcoming Marvel property “Dr Strange” with Benedict Cumberbatch. Mikkelsen plays Jyn’s father Galen Erso who, according to the final trailer for Rogue One, plays some critical role in the creation of the first death star. Our guess is his character will start off bad and somehow redeem himself. (Hopefully he won’t kill millions of people before redeeming himself like Anakin Skywalker did.)

  • Forest Whitaker — Saw Gerrera

    Whitaker has been in plenty of high profile projects over the years and may be the closest thing in the Rogue One cast to a Movie Star. Here he plays Saw Gerrera a character plucked from the CGI TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. In Rogue One Saw seems to be a kind of mentor, the guy in the background quietly influencing proceedings by quietly influencing the paths of the major players.

  • Riz Ahmed — Bohdi Rook

    Ahmed’s star has been rising since his excellent supporting role in 2014’s “Nightcrawler”. Like all good actors he’s instantly recognizable yet hard to pin down. In Rogue One he plays Bohdi Rook a character who has produced almost no vapor trail in cyberspace other than a vague bio that states he is from the planet Jedha and is a pilot fighting on the side of the Republic. He’s featured prominently in the trailer but that could just be Disney pushing the diversity angle with Rogue One. We hope he has a significant supporting role but we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Ben Mendelsohn — Director Orson Krennic

    Ben Mendelsohn has been around for some time with a resume most actors would die for including recent stints in Ridley Scott’s “Exodus Gods and Kings” and “The Dark Knight Rises”. Yet he’s still relatively unknown outside his native Australia. Here he plays Director Orson Krennic an aggressive, ambitious imperial sort who seems to be in charge of the new death star and who seems pretty eager to use the darn thing.

  • Donnie Yen — Chirrut Îmwe

    Donnie Yen is an established martial arts star in his native Hong Kong. He’s not so well known in the West however though that is likely to change with his appearance in Rogue One. Whether that change will result in more high profile roles remains to be seen. In Rogue One he plays Chirrut Îmwe a blind Zen-type character who is not force-positive but nonetheless believes wholeheartedly in the notion that it is the force that controls our destiny. He’s one of the team assembled around Jyn to secure information about the newly completed death star from the Empire.

  • Others in the cast include Alan Tudyk, Diego Luna, Genevieve O'Reilly, Warwick Davis, Jimmy Smits, Valene Kane, Eunice Olumide and Jonathan Aris. James Earl Jones also returns to voice Darth Vader which of course means we’ll actually hear the big guy speaking for the first time in years.

    The Director

    Rogue One is helmed by relative newcomer Gareth Edwards whose 2014 “Godzilla” was 75% excellent and 25% dead in the water. His job here is to demonstrate the Star Wars Expanded Universe has legs outside its already accepted parameters of comic book, graphic novel and CGI TV series. When we watch Rogue One trailers it would seem he’s done a bang up job capturing the scale a film like this requires (he was similarly impressive when it came to imbuing Godzilla with a scale that worked effectively on the big screen - the 75% excellent), yet at the same time the flat, often boring characters that populated Godzilla (the 25% dead in the water) are a red flag as to whether he’s up to the job of turning Jyn into a cultural icon.

    The Writers

    The Rogue One screenplay is penned by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. Weitz’s writing credits include such big screen projects as “The Nutty Professor 2”, “About a Boy”, “The Golden Compass” and a 2015 version of “Cinderella”. For his part Gilroy, the son of Frank Gilroy a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, has penned a number of big screen efforts of his own including “The Devil’s Advocate” and “The Cutting Edge”. Neither however, has any experience writing for the Star Wars universe so we’ll have to watch Rogue One to determine if they’ve been able to successfully make the leap from comedy and character dramas to quasi sci-fi blockbusters.

    Interestingly, the story for Rogue One is credited with coming from John Knoll. Knoll is best known in Hollywood as a special effects supervisor that has worked on a number of incredibly high profile projects including “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Super 8”, “Pacific Rim” and the most successful movie of all time, James Cameron’s “Avatar”. Knoll said he had the idea for Rogue One more than a decade ago and only brought it to Disney’s attention when he learned of their intention to create an expanded universe for their newly acquired Star Wars property. In fact Rogue One represents his first writing credit. (Just as an aside, if the name “Knoll” seems familiar to you it’s probably because you’ve subconsciously seen it flash on the screen when you’ve booted up Photoshop. Knoll’s brother Thomas played a major role in developing what is now the world’s gold standard of image manipulation software programs and his name is visible on the screen for a few seconds every time Photoshop powers up.)

    Lastly Gary Whitta also gets a “Story” credit on Rogue One. Whitta has been around a while and is best known for writing the Denzel Washington vehicle “The Book of Eli” as well as writing the screenplay for the abomination known as “After Earth”. Let’s hope he got all of his abominable tendencies out of his system on After Earth, or that he had only a minor role in developing the story for Rogue One.

    Rogue One represents a bit of a risk for the House the Mouse built. After all the Star Wars faithful are not used to seeing new properties on screen every year. Expectations are high nonetheless and, though Disney won’t come out and say it, anything less than a billion dollars at the global box office will send shudders through corporate.

    Expectations for the story are a different matter. Since there’s no history with most of these characters everything is riding on the quality of the script. If the story doesn’t resonate the way Star Wars did back in ‘77 Rogue One is likely to have a short cultural half-life. Lucas’ initial SW effort succeeded not just because the practical effects were so mind blowing (for the time) but because the story was an easy to understand coming of age saga wrapped around a David Vs Goliath core.

    Potential Dangers

    No suspense: While the trailers look pretty amazing and set up the premise pretty well we’re also aware that, since this is the death star we see in Episode IV it won’t be getting destroyed here, which has the effect of undermining the narrative in a pretty substantial way. After all, once you take destruction of The Object out of the storyline what are you left with? Character development? Gee. I can’t wait.

    Too British: Nothing against my friends across the pond but Rogue One not only seems to be set in a galaxy far, far away but in a British galaxy far, far away. Everyone in the trailer with the exception of Mad Mikkelson has a pronounced British accent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that per se but it remains to be seen if American audiences (the single biggest and most devoted group of Star Wars fans) will be put off by what seems to be a British film. Before you start with the “you’re just a xenophobe” stuff remember that Luke, Han and Leia were all aggressively American types complete with the sarcastic one-liners, not-so-veiled swipes at those who cling to the royal delusion (“Look, Your Worshipfulness...”) swashbuckling demeanors and can-do attitudes. We love the British, but they’re not American. So it remains to be seen if the British tilt Rogue One seems to have embraced is a problem or not.

    Not Enough Separation: With the Marvel cinematic universe and the just ramping up DC equivalent you have thematic separation between standalone movies and the main narrative stream. Not so with Rogue One, at least when you watch Rogue One trailers. It looks so much like Star Wars I expect to see Luke and company swooping in to save the day. (Indeed we’ll be stunned if there isn’t a cameo or two from some member of the original cast, even if they’re digitally created ala Schwarzenegger in Terminator Salvation, or even a surprise cameo by someone like Ewan McGregor’s Obi Wan Kenobi.) The point is, in order for the SWEU to succeed it’s possible they’ll need to create greater distance between these offshoots and the main timeline/world. But we’ll see.

    The Final Word

    You can bet the farm that there are plenty of nervous executives at Disney wondering if the Rogue One full movie will deliver so they can keep their jobs. But although the entire project is surrounded by the swirling winds of uncertainty we’re actually looking forward to it. If it’s done well it will be another welcome step on the road to putting the prequels behind us.

    While it may take some getting used to the idea of having Star Wars product rolling out on a yearly basis going forward it’s not an uneasiness that will linger if the films are high quality affairs driven by compelling characters. Certainly the Rogue One cast is a strong one and Gareth Edwards knows how to imbue a movie with awe-inspiring scale. In the end you can also bet that on December 16th we’ll be there with tickets in hand and hopes riding high that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story the full movie will send us home smiling at the end of the night.

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