Well this was the bold decision, to create a hidden chapter in the franchise. While it would be familiar enough to the ‘classic trilogy’ it would also suffer for being a foregone conclusion in many ways, so one does not envy the task given Gareth Edwards in this first foray into a cinematic expanded universe.
In many ways, the film takes us to a much greyer world than the classics. A brutalistic one, because not only has the sense of hope been removed, but with it any sense of dashing escapes, wit and daring dos. While we follow the story of Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso the man who would be at the core of creating the death star we slowly see her back story as the film sees her come to join the rebellion and lead the cadre to steal the plans.
While the force awakens was criticised for being too much like A New Hope, this film is closer in beats and story, complete with cantina like scenes of intrigue and politicking. In many ways, this is like a bizarre Mirror Universe of the first film. With Erso as skywalker, Cassian as a more bloodthirsty “shoot first, shoot last and shoot always” Han Solo with an evil goatee, Alan Tudyks Reprogrammed android the new Chewbacca and Forest Whittaker shouting platitudes and grievances like the Obi Wan Kenobi toy when it gets kicked out the pub in an Adam and Joe sketch.
Admiral krennick is charismatic as the evil lead, he has poise lines and wit. Sadly, he seems somewhat perfunctory to the events as they unfurl and ends up being the Empires most aggressive admin assistant. I mean the best dressed one too but ultimately…. a man from H.R who needs you to sign a form.
The problem I think that lies in the heart of this is the film neatly breaks in two. The first half is showing a Star Wars world with more desperate measures being undertaken and no force powers to save us. Unfortunately, by doing that the years have been unkind to this era and by covering everything in a filter of shit the underdog scum lands look pretty unoriginal compared to all the direct underdog skive lands that stole from Star Wars in the 80 and 90’s. I did have points where I was thinking …” fuck it …put Trancers on”
Having said that though the second half kicks like a mule and once the mission is a go I was enthralled. I think it takes some doing in this case as while so much of the events are a foregone conclusion Edwards has created some of the best space battles ever put to screen and the last 20 minutes manage to confirm everything we thought happened while showing us it in such a way you cannot help but be excited.
I often have told friends and confess that whenever I watch Star Wars again on my own, I tend to skip straight to the cantina and watch it from there as the desert stuff bores me. In many ways, this is the same. You will have a great time at the end, but whether or not it was worth it with a leaden start is harder to say. P.s. I really suggest strongly you think about taking younger kids or not. I have a 6 year old nephew and have texted his dad to have a look first. It’s the grimmest most viscerally and brutally violent Star Wars yet. And I think is the poorer for it.