(SPOILERS ahead for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, so stop right here if you haven't seen the movie! You've been warned!)
To say Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had a great opening weekend is an understatement. The standalone cinematic episode of the #StarWars franchise grossed a staggering US$155 million Stateside, making it the 12th biggest debut weekend of all-time and the 3rd-biggest opening weekend of the year, after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166m) and Captain America: Civil War ($179m). Globally, the $200m film recouped its budget with a total of $290.5m. (Source: variety.com)
Part of the new Star Wars Anthology series, which includes an already-confirmed young Han Solo film, Rogue One tells the story of a group of Alliance rebels, led by Jyn Erso (The Theory of Everything's Felicity Jones) and Captain Cassian Andor (The Book of Life's Diego Luna), who embarks on a risky mission to steal the plans of the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of mass destruction.
Set in the time period that precedes the opening events in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), the film spins off directly from the opening crawl of the first-ever Star Wars film - #GeorgeLucas be blessed! - which reads "...rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the #DeathStar, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet..." (Source: comicbook.com/starwars)
Surprises Maketh The Movie
Bar watching Rogue One's very first official trailer, I'd tried my best to avoid spoilers (from past Star Wars literature to comments on social media platforms) prior to the film's launch. Glad to say, the smart move allowed me to enjoy a good number of surprises in the movie, although some also left me rather perplexed.
So once again, if you haven't seen the movie, STOP READING FROM HERE. Otherwise, here're "Seven Great and Not-So-Great Surprises from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story".
1. PETER CUSHING RETURNS AS GRAND MOFF TARKIN
In A New Hope, Grand Moff Tarkin (played by horror icon Peter Cushing) is the Imperial commander who used the Death Star to destroy Princess Leia's home planet of Alderaan. In Rogue One, Tarkin is seen stealing the credit of completing the Death Star from Imperial Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Having Tarkin in the new film isn't the surprise - seeing the late Cushing, who died in 1994, is the real shocker. His role - performed by British actor Guy Henry with the help of extensive CGI and motion-capture technology - is one of the film's most amazing special effects. It was both fascinating and eerie at the same time to see a dead man acting...
2. K-2SO GIVES C-3PO A RUN FOR ITS MONEY
If BB-8 was super cool in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One's K-2SO is pure joy. A former Imperial security droid now loyal to the Alliance, the lanky 8-foot droid (played by Alan Tudyk, voice actor for many Disney animated features) is witty and heroic in equal measures. ("You’re letting her keep it? Would you like to know the probability of her using it against you? It’s high.... very high...") An absolute peach to watch, it was truly devastating to see its tragic demise at the hands of the Imperial troops. Boo!
3. FAMILIAR FACES FROM TV
I already knew Mads Mikkelsen, he of TV's Hannibal fame, will be playing Galen Erso, the unwilling creator of the Death Star, but it was a pleasant surprise to see that playing his wife, Lyra Erso, is British actress Valene Kane, whom fans of the acclaimed BBC drama series The Fall will recognized as Rose Stagg, serial killer Paul Spector's last victim who managed to escape his clutches.
Though her part was short, at least we got to hear Kane as Lyra telling her young daughter and future Rebel heroine Jyn to "Trust the Force." It was as much a thrill as seeing The Walking Dead's Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan playing Bruce Wayne's parents, Martha and Thomas, in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
4. THE FORCE IS WITH IP MAN
As fans of Hong Kong action superstar #DonnieYen - check out Ip Man 1-4, his action film series on Chinese martial arts master Yip Man - we were a tad afraid that he will only get a "blink and you'll missed him" part. Thankfully, it was better than that. As the blind Force-believing warrior, Chirrut Imwe, he was outstanding with his kung fu skills and mantra of "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me". Along with renowned Chinese actor/director Jiang Wen (Red Sorghum, Let The Bullets Fly) as world-weary soldier Baze Malbus, these two fine characters are a welcome respite from token Chinese character roles played by the likes of actress Fan Bing Bing in blockbusters such as X-Men: Days of Future Past and Iron Man 3.
5. DEATH (STAR) BECOMES HER
"I'm playing a Disney Princess," said #FelicityJones in the December issue of Glamour magazine of her role as #JynErso. Alas, Ms Jones, Disney Princesses are meant to live happily ever after. It's such as an irony that Galen Erso would inform his daughter about the flaw in the Death Star so as to protect her, but in so telling, it led Jyn to successfully hunt down the plans and deliver it to the Rebel Alliance, only to be killed on Scarif (along with #CassianAndor) by the very weapon that her dad built. I truly didn't see that coming and it was heartbreaking. All Ms Jones' fault for playing Jyn as a feisty, heartfelt fighter whom audiences would root for. Actually, that goes for every Rogue One rebel who bit the dust too. Sob.
6. VADER LEADS US INTO A NEW HOPE (IRONY INTENDED)
Rogue One is mesmerizing from start to end, but none more so than in the final couple of minutes when the wrath of Darth (Vader) sees the Father of all Space Villains scarily swashbuckling his trademark red lightsaber and taking on the rebels himself to try and retrieve the plans of the Death Star. Then amazingly, Rogue One turns seamlessly into A New Hope as new footage becomes "old" with memorable scenes from 40 years ago reenacted, complete with a youthful Princess Leia (played by Norwegian actress Ingvild Deila) with the said DS plans in her hands. Let's called Rogue One for what it really is - the best Star Wars prequel ever!
7. MISSING SCENES FROM TRAILERS
"Is it just me or were there a lot of scenes missing from the trailers?" asked a fellow Star Wars fan on FaceBook. So much for avoiding spoilers on social media. For me, the most noticeable missing bits were Jyn's memorable line at the Rebel Base, "This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel!" and that of a TIE fighter rising from below as Jyn walks on a platform towards the transmitter's control panel on the Imperial tower. (Also, Forest Whitaker's Clone Wars hero Saw Gerrera was bald in said trailer but oddly rather well-coiffed in the final film.)
According to slashfilm.com, there were arguably a dozen scenes that didn't make it to the big screen including Stormtroopers wading in knee-deep waters as seen in the main picture of this post. Well, most times, film buffs are always complaining that "all the good bits were in the trailer". For Rogue One though, it seems better bits made the final cut. It's all good.
May the Force be with You.