This was gritty, downbeat, thumping, triumphant filmmaking. Gareth Edwards has brought a different aesthetic to the saga, away from the familiarity of Lucas and Abrams. Ever since MONSTERS, Edwards has brought scale to his films; GODZILLA benefitted from it and now STAR WARS.
This is what impressed me the most. The scale of the rebellion was always something we were ‘aware’ of, but until now we never got a chance to see the galaxy-wide fight in live action.
Which is where our cast and characters comes in. And what a brilliant set of characters they are. It is really refreshing to see a STAR WARS film that is not full of white men; with Twitter exchanges from minorities saying how happy they felt seeing these characters on screen, it underlines the power of STAR WARS.
Felicity Jones is full of fight, determined to go out her way as Jyn Erso. Diego Luna as Cassian Andor is a complex, secretive rebel, almost tired of the fight against the Empire. Bodhi Rook, as played by Riz Ahmed, has the heart in his choices, believing so fervently in the cause, he is just a joy to hear him speak. K2-SO steals every frame he is in, which is down to Alan Tudyk’s fantastic mo-cap and voice work. Ben Mendelsohn and Mads Mikkelson are very solid as Director Krennic and Galen Erso respectively.
My favourite characters are The Guardians of the Whills. Which is a sentence I never thought I would write coming from a live action STAR WARS movie. Donnie Yen, does his Kung fu thing, but is funny, charming and just a general badass as Chirrut Imwe. Force sensitive, but taking on stormtroopers with a wooden staff, it is a pleasure to see him get his chance in front of mainstream cinema goers in the West. His partner, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), brings the muscle. His dialogue with Chirrut is by far the best character moments in the film, and that’s not a negative.
The plot, based on one sentence in the opening crawl of A NEW HOPE, propels forward with such verve that the second half of the film never ceases for breath. As I pointed out before, the scale is what makes this film a triumph.
If there are any criticisms, the character work is a little flat, no real growth. But then I can argue that this isn’t really the aim of the writers, Gary Whitta, Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy and John Knoll. They have the bigger task of making this feel like it belongs next to the Original Trilogy.
The action is spectacularly bold. ILM have really outdone themselves, the third act battle seamlessly switches from ground to air. The film doesn’t suffer from being away from the Skywalkers, in fact it’s liberated by it.
The fact that I have gone on to watch STAR WARS straight after, and EMPIRE is on my TV now, hopefully underlines how much I feel this film succeeds.