Front Row Features
The first standalone film set in the “Star Wars” universe, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is now available to bring home on Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with Digital HD (MSRP: $39.99) from Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Undoubtedly the most polarizing “Star Wars” movie to date, “Rogue One” takes place just before the original “Star Wars” film, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” and sheds some light on the group of unlikely heroes who managed to steal the secret plans to the Death Star—an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”), whose father reluctantly helped design the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction, and Rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, “Y Tu Mamá También”), the group bravely risks their lives in hopes of restoring freedom to the galaxy.
While most “Star Wars” fans are in agreement that the original “Star Wars” trilogy remains the gold standard of science-fiction films, that its prequels were fairly awful (although they served their purpose in furthering the Skywalker saga) and that “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was actually quite enjoyable, even if it is a bit of a rehash of “A New Hope,” audiences were split on the verdict for “Rogue One.” Some found the bleak story of having hope against all odds one of the strongest films in the “Star Wars” universe while others found the dark, World War II-like tale predictable and dull having already seen what transpires next. The visuals, as always, are stunning, but the characters aren’t nearly as memorable as Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Rey, Finn or Poe Dameron. Even the movie’s deadpan droid, K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk, “Wreck-It Ralph”), was met with mixed reactions; he isn’t as cute as BB-8 or as endearing as C-3PO, and while his bluntness is funny at times, for the most part he comes across as a bit of a jerk.
For every person who found the film “serviceable space junk,” however (read Front Row Features film critic’s James Dawson’s review for more on that), there’s someone like me who has been counting down the days to the movie’s inevitable home video release. Even though the three-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack comes with more than an hour of bonus features on a second Blu-ray disc, fans can’t help but feel the release is a bit bare bones considering all of the extras that could have been included. In fact, aside from a four-minute featurette pointing out some hidden Easter eggs in film, there’s really only one extra, “The Stories,” that takes viewers behind the scenes with the filmmakers and cast to reveal how to the movie came to life.
Viewers can either watch “The Stories” as one long making-of documentary broken up into 10 chapters—“A Rogue Idea,” “Jyn: The Rebel,” “Cassian: The Spy,” “K-2SO: The Droid,” “Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills,” “Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary,” “The Empire,” “Visions of Hope: The Look of ‘Rogue One,’” “The Princess & The Governor” and “Epilogue: The Story Continues”—or watch each featurette by itself. For the most part, each featurette is fairly straightforward, with viewers hearing from the cast and crew about the various topics and characters being covered. At certain points, viewers even get to see some behind-the-scenes clips not only from “Rogue One,” but also from the original “Star Wars” trilogy, which is exciting.
Additionally, viewers will get to hear certain cast members reflect on their earliest memories of watching “Star Wars,” see photos from “Rogue One” director Gareth Edwards’ 30th birthday when the longtime “Star Wars” fan took a trip to Tunisia to visit the sets that stood in for Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tatooine and hear from fans at the film’s premiere about how the diversity of “Rogue One’s” cast impacted them. One woman even recalls during “Epilogue: The Story Continues” how, as a kid, she wrote George Lucas telling him she wanted to see more strong females in “Star Wars.”
“The Stories” also discusses the challenges of creating set pieces and costumes that were unique but still felt like they could live within the original trilogy, so when viewers watched “Rogue One” and “A New Hope” back to back they felt like they took place in the same time period; how early designs for K-2SO were really just variations of C-3PO even though he was considered the “anti-C-3PO”; the decision of when to introduce Darth Vader in the film (as Edwards points out, if they were to bring in the iconic character too early, audiences would just want to see Darth Vader for the rest of the movie); and how difficult it was to digitally recreate Governor Tarkin and (SPOILER ALERT!) Princess Leia for the film. Other tidbits shared during the informative extra include how Donnie Yen (“Ip Man”), who plays the warrior monk Chirrut Îmwe in the movie, was the one who suggested that his character should be blind; how much Jones enjoyed bashing Stormtroopers on the head without any feelings of guilt given her character’s hatred toward the Empire; and how Riz Ahmed (“Nightcrawler”), who plays Bodhi Rook, basically “spammed” Edwards once he got the director’s email address with different audition tapes showing the various ways he could play the former Imperial cargo pilot who defects and joins the Rebellion.
The only other extra included on the release is the aforementioned “Rogue Connections,” a brief featurette which highlights some interesting facts about the film that would likely otherwise go unnoticed. For instance, the featurette points out how “Rogue One’s” director makes a cameo appearance as a Rebel soldier in one scene and how Hera Syndulla, a character from “Star Wars Rebels,” is being paged in another. Unless you’re a die-hard “Star Wars” fan who already knows everything being discussed, this is a fun featurette that’s definitely worth watching.
Unfortunately, there’s no audio commentary track, blooper reel or deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray release, or any interviews with the original “Star Wars” cast getting their thoughts on the film (which many people argue isn’t really a standalone movie at all, but more of a prequel to “Episode IV”). Fans can only assume a special edition double-dip is in the works.
While most “Star Wars” fans’ home video collection wouldn’t be complete without “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the movie isn’t a must-own for everyone. If you missed it while it was in theaters, be sure to rent it first before buying it, as you never know if you’ll be one of the many people who loves the film or one of the few who dislikes it. Granted it’s nowhere near as bad as “Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones,” but in this reviewer’s opinion, it’s not as good as “Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith” either.