Star Wars Retrospective: Rogue One (2016) & Solo (2018)

Written by Film

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Director: Gareth Edwards.

Writer(s): Screenplay – Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy. Story – John Knoll & Gary Whitta

Producer: Kathleen Kennedy & Allison Shearmur.

IMDB Rating: 7.8 / 10.

As a big fan of the new expanded universe of the Star Wars franchise, the standalone ‘Star Wars story’ films are some of the most rewarding and immersive to watch. Rogue One, for one, is probably the most visually stunning that Star Wars has ever looked in my opinion.

It’s not just the audiovisual aspects of the film that were so impressive. The storytelling of Rogue One shone light on a hitherto unseen side of the Rebellion. Seeing Captain Cassian Andor gun down a rebel informer before making a swift getaway set the tone of the film excellently. I had been waiting so long to see proof that the Rebel Alliance were not as squeaky-clean as the Original Trilogy led us to believe. Hearing the backstory of Cassian was a huge step in the right direction, but I’d honestly love to see the franchise move towards this more in the future. 

I’m also a sucker for a healthy dose of spirituality in Star Wars. For some strange reason, I can’t help but get hot under the collar whenever I hear about Force-sensitives that aren’t Jedi or Sith, such as Guardians of the Whills – Chirrut and Baze, who bring in some philosophy to the Force that enriches the world so much more. Icing this science-fantasy cake is a damn good space battle that really has momentum and a visual acuity that ties the film’s third act together beautifully.

Showing Vader for the terriying monster he is. Amazingly, this scene was almost never made. It was added during late re-shoots but now stands as one of the movie’s highlights.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Director: Ron Howard.

Writer(s): Jonathan & Lawrence Kasdan.

Producer: Kathleen Kennedy & Allison Shearmur.

IMDB Rating: 6.9 / 10.

A trend that seemed to appear after the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, was how willing the Lucasfilm Story Group is to play around with genre in these standalone films. Ron Howard, Chris Miller and Phil Lord all contributed in order to craft the film into one of the most quintessential space westerns of the century. Each act of the film evokes the classic tropes of western narratives, while revitalising them with some excellent character development, as Han Solo learns about his place in this huge, cutthroat galaxy. 

Solo’s strength is in its individuality. In every other Star Wars film, the stakes are astronomically high, with the fate of the entire galaxy hanging in the balance. Not so for Solo. The stakes are rarely higher than life or death; it’s refreshing to see some quiet character moments that really allow the wacky rag-tag bunch on the Millenium Falcon to breathe. While this is something I  found to be wanting in Rogue One, which struggled to balance a fast pace with a very hefty ensemble cast, Solo manages it gracefully. As a viewer I genuinely wanted every character to succeed, and felt great sadness at several points when these motivations clashed as sparks and blaster fire flew.

Kicked out of the Imperial Academy on Cardia for saving a fellow pilot, young Han Solo finds himself on the front lines of the Imperial war machine fighting natives on Mimban.

SPECIAL MENTION: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

Director: Dave Filoni.

Writer(s): Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching & Scott Murphy.

Producer: Catherine Winder.

IMDB Rating: 5.9 / 10.

I really wish that The Clone Wars was better. Don’t get me wrong, some of the later episodes of the TV series were some of the most enriching stories in Star Wars, but this film is not the TV series.

This film, which is essentially the first three episodes of Season One, and this shows through in the quality. In the only one of these standalones that was released before the Disney acquisition (and the new canon), this markedly juvenile film fails to stand up to much scrutiny, other than reintroducing some eventually rewarding characters, such as Ahsoka and Asajj Ventress – but the legwork is not done in this feature, but in the several series and novels that entrench them into the new Star Wars tapestry. A good start, but a stumbling one.

With the Clone War only weeks old, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi lead the 501st & 212th legions against the Seperatists on Christophsis, only to be joined by a ‘snippy’ 14 year old Togruta Padawan called Ahsoka.

Last modified: 12th January 2020

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