Star Wars Rogue One: The Jewish Chronicle review

The biggest movie of the year has somehow aroused the ire of antisemites. What do they mean? Here's our take on the latest developments in a galaxy far, far away....


Last week, white supremacists called for a boycott of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Far-right trolls urged their thuggish supporters to give the movie a miss. Why? They call the film 'a Jew fantasy, an example of awful multiculturalism starring an empowered female.'

Well, in the same way that the efforts of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement spur me on to buy more Israeli products, this warning from bigots made me all the more eager to watch it. Besides, as a nice Jewish boy, it’s been a while since I had a fantasy, and I was keen to see if Rogue One would indeed supply me with one. Add in multiculturalism and an empowered female, and it sounded great already.

The Star Wars film sequence can be confusing, so I hope die-hard fans will forgive me if I briefly explain. The first three films, which came out in the 70’s and 80’s, were designated as episodes IV, V and VI. Then in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, we suffered through episodes I, II and III. Last year, an episode VII was made, set some three decades after episode VI. And now Rogue One takes place just prior to episode IV.

Right from the beginning, it’s clear that this is not just another Star Wars episode. Instead of the philharmonic, dramatic entry we’ve come to expect, we get right down to business.

Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, a young woman hiding her past pain behind a powerful will and a highly effective right hook. Freed by Rebel forces from Imperial imprisonment, she is offered a shot at redemption; helping to broker an introduction to the man who raised her — rebel outlaw Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker — to find a top Imperial scientist, who just happens to be her father.

With Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and a ragtag crew they pick up along the way, Jyn attempts to find her father (Galen Erso, played by Mads Mikkelsen), and subsequently to destroy his colossal and lethal creation.

There are tantalising cameos of familiar Star Wars faces, but not much more than that. While it might be nice to see more of characters we know and love, there’s something to admire about a movie which is clearly intended to stand or fall on its own merits.

The only exception to this apparent rule is the ascetic villain Grand Moff Tarkin, first seen in episode IV and, rather spookily, played by an actor who has been dead for more than 20 years. Peter Cushing, who originally played the Imperial commander, was “digitally resurrected” for the role, which explains how a character who first appeared almost four decades ago looks as if he hasn’t aged a single day.

No Star Wars film would be complete without an android companion, and Rogue One is no different in that regard. But K-2SO (played by Alan Tudyk) is something new, injecting sassiness into the scenery and providing more than a few funny moments. And in K-2SO, finally, we have a robot free of the whoops and whistles of R2-D2 and BB-8 and without the intensely frustrating dithering of C-3PO.

Those hoping for the lightsaber duels of previous movies are set to be disappointed; and the main mention of “the Force” is from a warrior monk (Donnie Yen), who appears to use it as a mantra. But what we get instead is a glorious galactic battle set high above the beach paradise/Imperial stronghold where a commando troop led by Jyn and Cassian attempt to steal the plans for the Empire’s most secret and deadly weapon. As far as I’m concerned, the trade-off is worth it. A fantasy? Not quite; but highly enjoyable nonetheless.

I watched the film with a colleague who had not been much of a Star Wars enthusiast in the past. But at the end of the movie she declared that she “would never fall asleep in front of a Star Wars movie again”, and that Rogue One had “converted her.”

I cannot guarantee fans of the franchise that this movie will work similar miracles with their own friends or loved ones. But it’s worth a try. Plus you’ll distress far-right bigots. Rogue One is worth seeing twice for that reason alone.

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