Rogue One is out in theaters. How does it measure up against the other Star Wars movies? Our assistant editor provides the answer in her review.
The biggest fear I had going into Rogue One was I wouldn’t like it. If Rogue One didn’t feel like Star Wars, if its plot was shoddy and its characters one-dimensional, then George Lucas’s legacy would feel tarnished. More importantly, it would just be a bad film. And nobody likes to admit a Star Wars movie is bad.
But I don’t have to say that about Disney’s first standalone Star Wars movie. Lucasfilm took an awful risk diverting its energies from the episodic saga, and that risk paid off tremendously. Such was LFL’s success that, for me, Rogue One is now an integral part of the Star Wars cinematic universe.
Despite being its own “standalone” story, the film bridges Episodes III and IV in a way I never knew I needed. It connects the two films and creates a more cohesive story. For example, people who watch Star Wars in episodic order for the first time will recognize Bail Organa from Revenge of the Sith. They will realize he is a leader of the rebellion and will understand why his adopted daughter, Leia, is a target of the Empire. Even diehard fans benefit from this interconnectedness. We now know why Bail Organa wanted Obi-Wan Kenobi to come out of exile. We also know why the Empire constructed the Death Star with such a fatal flaw. Rogue One is not just a standalone story; it is a supplemental story which enriches the viewing experience of the other films.
Rogue One being a standalone story and set apart from the saga, however, means it is difficult to compare with any of the Episodes. Many people on the internet refer to Rogue One as “the prequel they’ve been waiting for,” a direct jab to George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. As a fan of the prequels, I can’t make such an abusive comparison. Besides, Episodes I-III explained so many things about the original trilogy that Rogue One didn’t even come close to addressing. (How Anakin Skywalker became Vader, why Luke and Leia are separated at birth, etc.)
“Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director” – Darth Vader
Was Rogue One a better film in some aspects? Yes. The dialogue was less clunky and the acting was more engaging. Rogue One improved on the original trilogy in the same aspects.
Yet even for “bad” dialogue and acting in both trilogies, I could make a case. The Episodes are more theatrical, which makes them seem cornier. It is also what makes them unique. As a thing apart from the main saga, Rogue One had the chance to make the “improvements” some fans cried out for in the wake of the prequels. But Rogue One in no way set out to replace the latter. Thus, it is difficult to compare the standalone film to any of the Episodes. Its purpose in the Star Wars cinematic universe is to support what has gone before, as well as break in a new era of stories not focused on the Skywalkers. The saga’s purpose, on the other hand, is to tell an epic story with the Skywalkers as the protagonists.
The only way to compare Rogue One with the Episodes, then, is from a technical perspective. Did it deliver a better-conceived plot and engaging characters? In terms of plot development, Rogue One surpasses The Force Awakens. With regard to character development and endearment, Rogue One improved on Episodes I, II, VI, and VII. On the other hand, the standalone movie is more morbid than the majority of the Episodes. It also delivers cameos and references to other Star Wars films to the point of painfully obvious fan service.
Does any of this mean Rogue One is more or less enjoyable than any of the latter films? No. Rather, it is a solid addition to an already airtight saga. It has its quirky moments, just like every other Star Wars film. Ultimately, though, it feels like a story George Lucas would approve of. Rogue One is, truly, a good Star Wars movie.