BY ROGER THOMAS
“Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” That is a line from a speech given by Mon Mothma, a leader of the Rebel Alliance, before the beginning of the Battle of Endor in “Return of the Jedi.” I do not know about Bothans and their demise, but I can tell you, there are more death scenes in this new “Star Wars Story” than we have ever seen in a story from a ‘galaxy far, far away.”
There are several other differences in this new film that caught my attention. There are no Jedi Knights or Jedi lightsabers in this film, though there is a reference to the weapon. There is also a man among the many heroes who has skills with “the force” but he carries a staff as his only weapon.
Another difference in this film is that the lead character is a young woman. When we first meet Jyn Erso she is a very young girl; years later she is a strikingly beautiful young woman played by Felicity Jones. Jyn is very passionate about her cause and she is the heart of this film.
From the beginning shots of the film, everything looks good. The natural environments are perfect. The scenes in villages, cities and empire military bases, among other settings where the story plays out, are all captivating.
Then there is the cast of characters. I am sure I could not name them all. In the previous films we mainly focused on three heroes and two droids. In this story, there is one main droid, K-250, and I think he may be my new favorite droid of the whole series. He is as smart as C-3PO but much more clever with his responses. Then there are four men who assist Jyn on her plan to stop the Empire. To be honest, there were times when all these characters seemed a little too much, but in the end, it is hard to deny any of the roles of this band of struggling heroes.
As many already know, there is a character from the original films in “Rogue One.” Actually there are several. Mon Mothma has an appearance. So does Grand Moth Tarkin who was played by Peter Cushing in the original “Star Wars” film. Cushing passed away 1994 but through great effects his Tarkin character lives on. Bail Organa, Leia’s adopted father, also makes a couple of appearances in the story. There are four more popular characters who have brief moments on screen, and one of them welds the only lightsaber seen in the film.
There is much homage to the films of the past. Simple lines of dialogue spoken such as “I have a bad feeling about this.” The filmmakers masterfully insert clever reminders of the past even as they create something new.
My conclusion is that this film belongs in the saga. There are a few things that trouble me, but most were resolved by the end. And going back to my earlier thoughts, I think it was a bold decision to have multiple major characters die. I did not expect that, but it made the film better.
The big debate is always how do you rate the “Star Wars” films. Most people agree that “The Empire Strikes Back” is the best, followed by “A New Hope.” What comes in third is anyone’s choice. The first question I received after seeing the film was simply this, “Is it better than “Return of the Jedi?” I am still pondering my answer. I know I need to see “Rogue” again because I have never seen a “Star Wars” movie only once in the theatre. Maybe a second viewing will give me some clarity.
To anyone who has ever liked “Star Wars,” you will find enough here to satisfy you, and probably much more.