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Will 'Rogue One' be the best 'Star Wars' film ever?

Posted Thursday, October 13, 2016 at 10:23 AM Central
Last updated Monday, October 17, 2016 at 10:59 AM Central

by John Couture

If you go by conventional wisdom, or ask just about anyone on the street, the most beloved Star Wars movie is The Empire Strikes Back, hands down. But, its spot in the Star Wars hierarchy might be in jeopardy later this year.

On December 16, Disney will bring Star Wars: Rogue One to the masses and it will be a very important litmus test for the Star Wars universe under the rule of Mickey Mouse. It's the first "anthology" film that departs from the established Skywalker storyline and presents an "original" story set within that galaxy far, far away.

And yet, as hard as they try to make Rogue One different from the other films in the Star Wars universe, there are plenty of familiar touchstones. There's Darth Vader. We've got stormtroopers and AT-ATs, even if they are no longer simply relegated to far off frigid planets. Heck, even the main plot is one that anyone who has seen the original 1977 film knows well.

A brave band of rebels fought against long odds to steal the plans to the Death Star and delivered them to Princess Leia with hopes of thwarting the Empire's desire to start interstellar gentrification via orbiting space station. And yet, that simple piece of exposition in Star Wars is full of possibility and if today's second (and final) trailer for Rogue One is any indication, Gareth Edwards has truly delivered a film that earns the Star Wars moniker.

More than that, though, it is becoming increasingly clear that not being constrained by members of the Skywalker clan might just allow Disney to deliver a better film. The challenges facing Rogue One are obvious and numerous. We all know how the story will end, but we know next to nothing about those brave souls that eventually scored the first major score against the Empire for the Rebellion.

While The Force Awakens merely had to show a trailer that demonstrated capable filmmaking a few familiar faces in order to start printing money, no one really knew what to expect from Rogue One. This last trailer for Rogue One introduces a plot point that has been out there in the ether the last couple of months, but one that I had not heard yet. This is the point where you should turn around if you're averse to spoilers, even ones that are put in trailers. If you want to go in completely tabula rasa, then turn back now and don't watch this last trailer.

If you want to watch the trailer before being spoiled about it, go watch it below and come back when you've finished it.

OK, now that the legalities are out of the way, that plot point deals with the character being played by Mads Mikkelsen. Up until this last trailer, he had been MIA, which isn't shocking considering the large cast, but he makes a big impression in this trailer. He plays Jyn's father Galen, who happens to have been conscripted by the Empire to help them build the Death Star.

Boom. Some have said that this plot point was too much for the trailer to give away, while others argue that it's necessary for the film to eventually succeed. I tend to agree with the latter camp.

True, up until this point, Jyn's character and her motivations have been quite mysterious, but as we approach the film's release, it's pretty obvious that if she's going to carry the brunt of the film's action then we need to have a reason to care for her. Sure, the whole "Daddy issues" motif is one that they have beaten to death in the Star Wars series, but it's one that readily makes Jyn a more relatable character.

What we don't know is how Jyn will handle this news and whether it's a case of her wanting to redeem her father or to get answers for his treachery. Getting this information out in front of the film's release allows the audience to process this a bit before we sit down and watch the film. The result is that we won't have to spend so much time pondering it during the film's first and second acts. Again, since this film is a stand-alone affair, they don't have the luxury to explore these details in later installments.

No, Rogue One is set to be the most self-sustainable story in the franchise and for that reason alone, it will surpass most of the prequel films. We know where the film ends and we know what comes after this film, so this freedom allows the filmmakers to spend extra time developing the characters, which I argue is paramount for this type of heist film.

At the end of the day, where Rogue One ranks on the list of Star Wars films depends on the execution, but I wouldn't be shocked to see it start showing up in the top three soon after release. After some time passes, it's quite possible that it might even usurp The Empire Strikes Back for the best Star Wars film of all time.

What do you think?