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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray Review

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“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is strong with the force.

After the good but deeply frustrating “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I was more than ready to see “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” While I’m certainly all for the episodic films, I was more intrigued to see what a stand-alone story would look like. I wanted to see something that was a departure from the “Star Wars” films that we know. Thankfully, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” went above and beyond any expectations I had.

The film (which is set right before Episode 4) is pretty straight forward in terms of plot. The Rebellion/Alliance learns that the Empire is in possession of a planet destroying super weapon (the Death Star) but they discover that it contains a weakness. Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K-2SO and a host of brave rebels embark on a daring mission to uncover the Death Star plans in the hope of being able to expose that flaw. Obviously, we know where the plans end up in “Star Wars” Episode 4 (AKA “A New Hope”), but the journey to get there was previously unknown. Thanks to story creators John Knoll and Gary Whitta and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, we now know how that story plays out.

What makes “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” so rewarding is that it is, as I previously mentioned, a departure. It still looks and feels like a “Star Wars” film as it should, but it’s also part war film, part heist film and part mission film. It’s also unexpectedly ballsy. I won’t go into details for those who have yet to see it, but the movie takes risks and is rather dark in tone and content which is not something you tend to see coming from Disney. A lot of the credit for this originality certainly has to go to director Gareth Edwards who clearly had a unique vision for this project. Yes, we all know that the film went through several revisions, but the end product is what counts in the end.

As a hardcore “Star Wars” fan, I also greatly appreciated how this film acknowledges so many forms of canonical stories be it the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Star Wars Rebels.” There are some truly deep cuts here for fans and I couldn’t have been happier to see them. Some may call it blatant fan service, but to me, it adds so much to the film and to everything that is referenced.

Where “Rogue One” really comes to life, however, is in the riveting final 40 minutes. Again, I’m not going into spoiler territory here, but these 40 minutes are about as perfect as it gets. The stakes are high, it’s intense, it’s surprisingly deeply emotional and it also happens to include one of the best scenes in SW history (you’ll know it when you see it).

It should go without saying that the diverse ensemble cast is incredible. In fact, it’s arguably the best cast ever assembled for a SW film. Now, one could argue the characters could be more developed, but I think what we get is satisfactory. There’s no added filler and we learn what we need to about the characters. Also, there’s always room to explore these characters further in future films, books, and comics. Anyway, star Felicity Jones really impresses with a decidedly complex character (Jyn Erso) who lost everything and eventually found a new purpose. It’s really quite an emotional character arc and Jones makes you care about her. Mads Mikkelsen doesn’t have a ton of scenes but he gives a heartfelt performance as Galen Erso. Ben Mendelsohn excels as the slimy Imperial Director Krennic. Initially I found Forest Whitaker’s performance downright baffling as Saw, but I have grown to be fascinated by his bold acting choices. Riz Ahmed gives one of the more interesting performances as the tense, heroic, and on edge Imperial defector/pilot Bodhi Rook. As you have all probably heard by now, Alan Tudyk is indeed quite the scene stealer as the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO. Diego Luna (who portrays the rebel spy Captain Cassian Andor) is one of the film’s best and most layered characters. Jiang Wen is a complete bad-ass as the sharp shooter Baze. Last, but certainly not least, there’s Donnie Yen as the blind force sensitive monk Chirrut who is far and away my favorite character.

If I had to level one criticism at the film it would be the pacing of the first half hour. Much like my first viewing of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I found the style to be rather jarring as it was so unlike what we had seen in the previous six films. The super fast planet hopping, quick edits and lack of character breathing room in this time span felt a bit off. Luckily, everything clicks in to place once the action moves to Jedha. From there on out it’s smooth sailing for the film.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.39:1 1080p. How does it look? While the film appears darker on home video (at least that was my observation), it is still undoubtedly a crisp hi-def transfer.

Audio Track: 7.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? It should come as no surprise that this track is phenomenal. Whether you are hearing Michael Giacchino’s underrated score or the roar of a Tie Fighter engine, this track never disappoints.

Extras:
* Digital copy and DVD copy.
* “A Rogue Idea”- A featurette that touches on John Knoll’s story pitch, the pre-production art, and Gareth Edwards becoming the director.
* “Jyn: The Rebel”- Felicity Jones, John Knoll, Kathleen Kennedy, Gareth Edwards and others discuss the character of Jyn Erso. Behind-the-scenes footage is also included.
* “Cassian: The Spy”- A featurette on Diego Luna’s character Cassian Andor that plays out like the Jyn extra above.
* “K-2SO: The Droid”- Alan Tudyk’s motion capture droid character gets the spotlight here. Great to see set footage of the always amusing Alan Tudyk at work.
* “Baze And Chirrut: Guardians Of The Whills”- This bonus feature revolves around Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen’s fan favorite characters .
* “Bodhi And Saw: The Pilot And The Revolutionary”- The character profile extras continue as Riz Ahmed and Forest Whitaker’s characters get featured here. Very entertaining to see the videos Riz sent to Gareth.
* “The Empire” focuses on Krennic, Galen, Tarkin and Darth Vader.
* “Visions Of Hope: The Look Of Rogue One” covers the design work in all forms, the influence of Ralph McQuarrie, the Ep. 4 ties, and more.
* “The Princess And The Governor”- One of the most interesting extras on this set shows  how Leia and Tarkin were recreated with computer graphics. The actors who portrayed them (Ingvild Deila and Guy Henry) also get screentime here as well.
* “Epilogue: The Story Continues”- A collection of footage from the L.A. Premiere.
* “Rogue Connections”- This 4 ½ minute extra displays factoids, easter eggs, and things that tie in to other films and series.

Note: Even though there are a number of well produced extras, what we didn’t get is the bigger story here. Where’s the feature length documentary and, more importantly, where are the deleted scenes? While all of this could be included in a potential future home video release, it’s just odd that the set is so lacking in major extras. We all know the film underwent reshoots so why can’t we see some of the material that didn’t make the cut?

Overall Thoughts: Slightly disappointing extras aside, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a great film that is essential to any Blu-ray (or DVD) collection.

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March 24, 2017 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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