A lot of fans like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story best of the new films, but I only like the beginning and the end.
The spin-off “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” airs Sunday night on ProSieben and begins with a dramatic kidnapping: Imperial Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) forces scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to work on a weapon of mass destruction. I like this introduction, in which Mendelsohn and Mikkelsen tell in a few words and looks of a friendship that takes a brutal turn.
I also like the last third of “Rogue One”: A small group of rebels fight under time pressure against the overwhelming empire and the damn technology to transmit files into space, on which the fate of the rebellion depends. “Star Wars” was never more engaging – but unfortunately it was never more boring than the middle part of the spin-off.
Before the rebels throw themselves into the big battle against the empire on the tropical planet Scarif with the courage of desperation, the team first has to be drummed up and prove itself in the first missions. That might sound interesting as an idea, after a classic “men (and one woman) on a mission” adventure. But in the film then only stations are rattled off.
You can clearly tell from the dramaturgy of “Rogue One” that it was constructed as a lead-in to the dramatic last third (or maybe the last third was the only part that could be saved in the extensive post-shooting). In any case, momentum and the perceptible danger only arise when the small rebel team fights cut off from the others on Scarif – but by then the film has already been around an hour and a half.
It doesn’t help that Jyn Erso’s (Felicity Jones) rebel team consists of six people (counting the droid K-2SO), all of whom need to be introduced. I do find each of the members interesting on their own, above all the disillusioned rebel spy Cassian Andor, whose tragic story Diego Luna perfectly expresses in just a few glances.
But the potentially exciting dynamics between the rebels remain completely underexposed. It seems as if the six rebels are running side by side rather than actually interacting.
Rogue One is the first film in the Star Wars“ titled series, which is considered a war film. But it is neither really exciting over long stretches, nor is the war presented in its moral shades.
Pseudo war film
Rogue One is a war film in demeanor alone: it’s set among soldiers and whenever there’s fighting, the camera shakes in the best Saving Private Ryan tradition. However, good and evil are clearly separated because all shades of gray are indicated to the maximum:
Jyn Erso is a criminal who doesn’t give a damn about the rebellion? Oh well. In fact, their impressive criminal records are only briefly read out before we see any of them. And it doesn’t take long before she gives her big “We rebels can do it” speech.
The rebels have an extremist arm that uses brutal methods and shows that there are bad guys on the side of the good guys? Oh well. We do see Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) being tortured by them, but that’s about it. The terrorist rebels play no role in the great battle on the tropical planet.
Rogue One is without a doubt one of the new Star Wars films since Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens (2015) that differs most stylistically and in an ensemble from all other parts. Maybe that’s why he’s on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes one of the most popular of the new films, which are often accused of showing too much that is familiar.
But I don’t think that being different is a quality feature in itself, nor can I see that “Rogue One” would really live up to its own ambitions.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” runs on April 3 from 8:15 p.m. on ProSieben. On this occasion we have republished this article, it was first published in 2020.