Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Reel Preview: Everything You Need to Know About ROGUE ONE - A STAR WARS STORY

In 1977, the original STAR WARS (later sub-titled EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE), literally exploded onto screens in one of the greatest openings in cinema history. It began right in the middle of a battle; with the evil galactic Empire chasing down a Rebel ship which was carrying stolen plans…technical “blueprints” to the Empire’s dreaded new super-weapon, the Death Star. The film began at the tail-end of a heist, and the story of that heist will now be told with the newest addition to the growing STAR WARS universe with this week’s highly anticipated release, ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. Here is a preview of this new galactic adventure.

What is this all about and when does it take place? – For the sake of simplicity, feel free to call this Episode 3.5, as it takes place between EPISODES III and IV. Specifically, ROGUE ONE takes place in the years, days, and hours before the very beginning of A NEW HOPE, and focuses on the stealing of those coveted plans…which the Rebels hope will reveal a weakness in the Death Star.

Who is in this? – The lead role belongs to English actress Felicity Jones, who in 2014 was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the most-excellent THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. Her other credits include BRIDEHEAD REVISITED (2008), and this year’s crappy INFERNO. Jones’ character, Jyn Erso, is the daughter of the man responsible for building the Death Star, Galen Erso…played by the great Mads Mikkelsohn (TV’s HANNIBAL). The rest of the most-impressive cast includes Ben Mendelsohn (THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES), martial-arts expert Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, and Diego Luna. Alan Tudyk (SERENITY) provides voice and motion-capture work for an enforcer droid, and Forest Whitaker (THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND), appears as a veteran of the Clone Wars.

Who is behind the scenes? – ROGUE ONE is directed by Gareth Edwards, who directed the critically acclaimed MONSTERS (2010), and the so-so GODZILLA re-start in 2014. The script is written by Chris Weitz (ABOUT A BOY) and Tony Gilroy (MICHAEL CLAYTON). All these gentlemen are overseen by parent-company Disney and executive producer Kathleen Kennedy…who has massive producing credits including INDIANA JONES and last year’s 7th episode in the STAR WARS series, THE FORCE AWAKENS.

Random and Interesting Facts – The story of ROGUE ONE is co-credited to John Knoll, who has been a Lucasfilm visual-effects master for over 20 years. He is also one of the creators of PhotoShop * This is the first STAR WARS film without music from the legendary John Williams, who had scored the previous seven episodes. Those duties have fallen to Emmy and Grammy winning composer Michael Giacchino, whose credits include THE INCREDIBLES (2004), RATATOUILLE (2007), STAR TREK (2009), UP (2009), and last year’s JURASSIC WORLD and INSIDE OUT * Forest Whitaker’s character previously appeared in the animated TV series, THE CLONE WARS * Speaking of animated TV series, ROGUE ONE takes place five years after the currently-running REBELS * James Earl  Jones returns to provide the voice of Darth Vader, who makes his first full-bodied return to the big screen in over a decade * Actress Genevieve O’Reilly reprises her role as Mon Mothma, whom she previously played in REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005), however her scenes were cut. The character first appeared in RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) * This is the first STAR WARS movie not to feature Obi-Wan Kenobi in any form.

What to expect? – Starting from the top-down, there is no better working studio these days than Disney. Their track-record over the past year, which includes THE FORCE AWAKENS, FINDING DORY, THE JUNGLE BOOK, ZOOTOPIA, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, DOCTOR STRANGE, and PETE’S DRAGON has been near-perfect with classical and effective storytelling. Disney are definitely acting as overseers here, and that is good news for director Gareth Edwards, whose last film, GODZILLA, had some great ideas and moments but ultimately finished as dumb and forgettable. Edwards is a fan of STAR WARS from the early days, and he seems to have put a lot of loving care into ROGUE ONE; he doesn’t want to mess this up, and Disney wouldn’t let him if he tried. The cast is impressive enough, and Felicity Jones is a great pick to be the first female in a lead role in a STAR WARS film. The oddest part about ROGUE ONE is that it’s the first film in the series to not be centered around the Skywalker family, and maybe that’s a good thing…for this is a galaxy full of possibility outside of family drama. We can expect fun and adventure…which is what the whole idea was in 1977.


ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY opens in full on December 15th, with early showings on the 14th. It is available in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D.

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