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Movie Review

"Jyn, whatever I do, I do it to protect you."

Those are among Galen Erso's last words to his young daughter. The elder Erso had been one of the Empire's star weapons' designers before he retired to a life of farming in a backwater corner of the galaxy. But Galen also suspected that his retirement would one day be interrupted. He knew that his former superior-turned-nemesis, Orson Krennic, would need his help completing the nightmarish project they'd begun together: the Death Star.

And when that day comes, little Jyn loses both father and mother, and she's left to deal with this often cruel galaxy largely on her own.

Years later, Jyn finds herself on one of the Empire's prison planets, locked in a hopeless life, left with little but the tender, distant memories of her beloved parents. She is forgotten and lost.

Until, that is, the day she's unexpectedly freed from her jailors by a team of Rebel Alliance agents led by Captain Cassian Andor. The Rebels have learned of Galen's involvement in the Death Star project, and they hope Jyn might somehow help them locate the man … and that Galen might in turn help them track down the plans for the superweapon before it puts an end to the Rebel's courageous resistance.

Jyn has little emotional attachment to the Rebel Alliance. Whatever optimism or idealism she might once have had has been beaten out of her. But the chance to find her father after decades of separation is something else entirely.

Soon Jyn and Cassian get tossed together with a ragtag band of underground freedom fighters: the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO; the former Imperial soldier Bodhi Rook; the blind, warrior monk Force devotee Chirrut Îmwe; and freelance assassin Baze Malbus.

As the clock winds down and Death Star's planet-razing lasers spool up, Jyn and her rogues gallery of unlikely heroes race to find Galen and to secure the plans the Rebels need to put the Empire's genocide-dealing space station out of business.

The only things standing in their way? A few Star Destroyers, AT-AT walkers, legions of Stormtroopers, myriad TIE fighters … oh, and a certain caped guy in a black mask whose heavy breathing you never want to hear behind you.

Positive Elements

In Rogue One, an occupied, oppressed insurgency is doing its best to resist the fascist forces of the truly wicked Emperor and his white-clad minions. The Rebel Alliance is comprised of determined members who are, realistically, unsure just how to proceed against a weapon the likes of which they've never seen.

Jyn, for her part, has deeply fond memories of her father. She's convinced he would never willingly aid the Empire. But she's also emotionally wounded and jaded at the outset: She has little room for the kind of idealism required to participate enthusiastically in a rebellion. Slowly, however, Jyn sees the righteousness of the Rebels' desperate cause. In fact, she becomes one of the fiercest adherents of a character quality in dwindling supply: hope. "Rebellions are built on hope," she tells her comrades in arms. Jyn also risks her life to save a little girl caught in the crossfire of a combat zone.

That hope fires a desperate gambit to secure the Death Star plans, one that requires the heroism and courage of all those who agree to join Jyn and Cassian on their mission.

Spiritual Content

Chirrut Îmwe doesn't have mastery of the Force in the way a Jedi does. But he's a faithful adherent nonetheless. Several times when he is about to go into battle (or even in the midst of it), he intones, "I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me." It's a repeated utterance that probably splits the difference between being an Eastern religion-style mantra and something closer to a prayer for protection. Chirrut's conviction evangelistically influences another cynical character to embrace the Force as well.

At one point, Jyn also seems to close her eyes, grab a crystal pendant she wears, and pray. Though the Force is never characterized as being a personal deity, these moments do give it a bit different—and decidedly more personal—religious flavoring than the more mystical approach to the Force that we've seen in the franchise's previous entries. Elsewhere, we hear variants on the phrase, "May the Force be with you."

Sexual Content

We see a small holographic projection of an alien woman dancing suggestively.

Violent Content

Rogue One, perhaps more than any other Star Wars movie to date, is a war movie. Firefight battles between Rebels and Imperial troops claim many lives on both sides. We see lasers cut soldiers down over and over again; grenades, bombs, explosions and massive blasts ratchet up the body count further. There are also some fierce hand-to-hand combat scenes involving a man's staff and someone's club. Several characters dangle perilously from heights, while others are tossed around quiet violently. Two massive, near nuclear explosions yield even more devastation.

For the most part, the violence isn't graphic. Wounded combatants fall. Rebel and Empire spacecraft tangle spectacularly, resulting in countless explosions, crashes and casualties. We see a couple of characters' wounds, but that's as far as things go in terms of graphic imagery.

More problematic are a handful of deaths that are dealt in cold blood. Someone casually blasts another person needlessly. A Rebel shoots an already-wounded Stormtrooper on the ground to ensure that he's dead. Multiple people are essentially executed at close range, usually via lasers. Darth Vader gets in on the violent action too, reminding us once again why he's one of the baddest villains in cinematic history.

Crude or Profane Language

There's a lone, unfinished utterance of "What the …"

Drug and Alcohol Content

Characters in a bar-like establishment quaff drinks of some sort. A flashback shows an Imperial officer with a drink in his hand.

Other Negative Elements

An ominous-looking creature wraps its tentacles around someone's head.

Conclusion

Rogue One will feel instantly familiar to anyone even remotely in touch with the Star Wars milieu. We've got Rebels plinking Stormtroopers with blasters, X-Wings going head-to-head with TIE fighters, Star Destroyers lurking menacingly, the Death Star lurking even more menacingly. We've got good guys acting heroically, bad guys acting despicably. It's satisfying storytelling stuff with plenty of nostalgic nods (some subtle, some not so subtle) to George Lucas' iconic 1977 blockbuster, Star Wars.

And yet, Rogue One: A Star Wars story still represents something of an experiment. It's the first Star Wars entry that doesn't advance the overarching episodic narrative of the of the extended Skywalker clan. Instead, it fills in one chapter of the series' backstory, dramatically answering the question, "How did the Rebels end up with the plans to the Death Star anyway?" In that sense, Rogue One is theoretically a different kind of Star Wars movie.

Except that it's not. Well, not really. True, there's nary a Skywalker nor Jedi to be seen. But the battle between good and evil is again front and center in a movie packed with risky gambits, laser-strafing conflagrations and more Industrial Light & Magic pyrotechnics than you can shake a lightsaber at.

Firefights between Rebel troops and Imperial Stormtroopers (most of whom still need to go to target practice, by the way) often feel like something out of an old-school World War II movie. At times, Rogue One's colorful characters bring to mind classic films such as The Dirty Dozen, Force 10 From Navarone and Seven Samurai. Their blazing blaster battles are intense and deadly, but never graphic or gory.

But Rogue One also has a grittier, more "realistic" feel, both physically and narratively. Stormtroopers patrolling occupied territory know that they're targets. Their armor gets dirty. And Jyn and her crew are pretty smudged up, too, for that matter. Despotic regimes are inherently messy things, as are the underground movements that resist them. And Rogue One gets at that reality better than any entry in this series thus far, ultimately encouraging those who feel oppressed to hold on to hope.

Before I land the X-Wing on this review, I also want to talk about the Force. Rogue One depicts characters who actively depend upon the Force in a way that we haven't quite seen before. In contrast to Luke Skywalker's and Obi-Wan Kenobi's meditative-like trance, Chirrut Îmwe has an almost prayerful relationship with it.

Now, Chirrut is hardly praying (if he's even doing that) to a Christian concept of God. But the petition he voices repeatedly, "I am with the Force, and the Force is with me," is not that far removed from a Christian understanding of our own relationship with Jesus Christ. Scripture says that we are in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-14, Colossians 3:1-4) and that Christ is in us (Colossians 1:27).

That's a significant parallel—even if it's one not likely intended by the film's creators. And I think parents could use this element of the latest Star Wars story as a springboard to talk about our convictions as Christians and how they, too, give us hope and courage in our ongoing resistance against evil in this world.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

PG-13

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso; Diego Luna as Cassian Andor; Alan Tudyk as K-2SO; Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe; Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus; Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic; Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera; Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook; Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso; Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa; Genevieve O'Reilly as Mon Mothma; James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader

Director

Gareth Edwards ( )

Distributor

Walt Disney

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

December 16, 2016

On Video

April 4, 2017

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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