Plot: You know Star Wars? It’s the bit before that
Rogue One tells the story immediately leading up to the first (the proper first) Star Wars film where they steal the plans for the Death Star (spoilers for 1977 but I mean come on).
Well first things first or I suppose first things nonexistent in this case, there’s no crawl. Some people were disappointed by that, some not, honestly I think it would have been nice to keep with tradition more than anything else but it doesn’t really damage the film hugely. One thing I think the crawl would have brought though is less of a plot-heavy start.
The film is split the film into 2 segments, one where they explain who the characters are/what’s going on and their sci-fi galaxy-saving posse is formed and the second half of the film is ‘let’s steal the death star plans!’. Personally I think the second of these sections is by far the strongest in which big action sequences and smaller scale character interactions are managed and joined together expertly with some solid laughs thrown in as well. It also uses an action device in the shields that allows the audience to easily understand what’s going on whist still managing to be epic, which is itself an impressive feat.
However the first section of the film in comparison seems significantly weaker with it’s extended dialogue and having to set up the state of play. This is where I feel a text crawl would have worked in easing the start of the film and allowing for less exposition. The upside of the slower first half though is the exploration of the characters so while they have only been on screen for 90 minutes they work as fully formed characters that the audience knows. The prime example of this is obviously K-2SO, Cassian Andor’s robot sidekick who has the best comedic lines by miles and manages to be sarcastic, likeable and badass all whilst literally not having a heart.
As a whole Rogue One manages to be both the sci-fi romp that it needs to be but fills in the space between prequels and originals well and whilst sometimes dialogue and plot heavy is still extremely enjoyable and action-packed.
The biggest difference between this and any of the other Star Wars incarnations for me is the amount of deaths. You like a character? Don’t plan on them living. This is the result of there being no expectation or possibility of a sequel because, well, there already is one, which is the first one, you know. Another reason for the substantial character deaths is that it does need to be explained why none of the crew are ever seen in the original films again. The deaths work though as they allow you to actually be concerned for characters lives because they could be in actual risk and aren’t guaranteed to pull through like Luke or Han(well…) were.
It is to the films credit though that these deaths manage to be so meaningful. After having only known these characters for a short time it is a strong indictment that there is already an attachment to them and a real sadness caused by their deaths.