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Inspired fusion of primal themes and sci-fi wizardry

/ 12:03 AM December 27, 2016
Felicity Jones in “Rogue One”

Felicity Jones in “Rogue One”

The “Star Wars” prequel, “Rogue One,” flies high on the iconic film franchise’s inspired fusion of primal themes like heroism and familial bonds with sci-fi wizardry and leaps of pure imagination and cinematic invention.

It provides the retroactively imagined backstory to the franchise, distilling its heroic Force in the seemingly frail person of a little girl (Felicity Jones), who is destined to help lead the remnants of the human race out of intergalactic thralldom.

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The storytelling starts with the little girl’s father, a great inventor, being forced to create a monstrous weapon to control the galaxy for the film’s resident supervillain, led by no less than Darth Vader himself.

Growing up without parents, the film’s young heroine has her hands full just trying to survive in the movie’s extremely fractious future world. So, when her destiny is suddenly thrust upon her, she feels that she’s the wrong person for the monumental job.

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But, heroic hubris cannot be denied, so she finds herself joining a rebel force that dares to do the impossible, helping defeat the galaxy’s vile rulers and render their monstrous weapon inert, eventually.

But, the production does its prodigious best to make it as gung-ho real as can be, with many action scenes that make full use of the cinema’s technical wizardry—as well as some good old close-in fisticuffs.

Some “Star Wars” “chapters” frittered their action and sci-fi advantages away with too many “philosophical” ruminations and other stylistic distractions. But “Rogue One” brings the series’ cumulative storytelling back to its seminal and primal roots.

It keeps action and sci-fi fans’ preferences clearly in mind above all else, and leaves the philosophizing to the aesthetes.

The refocusing is most welcome—but, after a while, the film’s firm focus on action and state-of-the-art sci-fi staging upstages the production’s human actors and characters.

The humans also have to compete for viewers’ attention with a host of other exotic and bizarre intergalactic creatures, monsters, robots and other products of animators’ antic and perfervid imaginings.

The actors try to counter with textured characterizations that strive mightily to connect with viewers’ subliminal impulses, but it’s an uphill struggle all the way.

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Other debit points include a slow start, insufficiently evil villains led by Ben Mendelsohn, a less than compelling female-lead portrayal and an extended final battle that spends too much time detailing many unsuccessful and repetitive attempts to break down an enemy fortress’ force shield.

All told, however, “Rogue One” is still a viewing treat due to its convincingly detailed rendering of some fictive planets, and sci-fi confrontations that hit viewers in the solar plexus and their imaginative sweet spot.

That may not be a total rave, but it’s still two thumbs up for the cinematic tribute to the rebellious spirit in all of us that “Rogue One” intends and has turned out to be.

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TAGS: Cinemas, Entertainment, Rogue One, Sci-Fi, Star Wars
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