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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set just before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, focusing on the rebel spies who managed to steal the plans for the original Death Star. Although the Star Wars franchise is popular with fans of all ages, this installment gets quite violent (somewhat more so than 2015's A Force Awakens), with scenes that make painfully clear the sacrifices and casualties necessary in a war against tyrannical evil. There's a high body count, as well as violence that's both large-scale (even the Death Star's early, limited attacks cause mass destruction) and up close and personal. On the other hand, the cast is very diverse, and there are many admirable role models, particularly brave, tough, capable Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). And the movie's story repeatedly demonstrates the importance of trust, friendship, courage, teamwork, loyalty, and doing the right thing.
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What's the story?
Set shortly before Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY fills in an important bit of backstory from the original trilogy. The movie follows the Rebel Alliance's plot to steal the plans for the Empire's in-development weapon of mass destruction known as the Death Star. For the risky mission, veteran Rebel pilot Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his trusty sidekick K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a reprogrammed Imperial droid, are commanded to take along a former prisoner. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the estranged daughter of the Empire's head engineer (Mads Mikkelsen), and the idea is that her presence on the mission will help draw him out and force him to give up the sought-after schematics. But things don't go as planned as the Death Star's mastermind, Commander Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), begins to show off its destructive potential in order to impress both the Emperor and Lord Vader.
Is it any good?
This is the Star Wars story you were looking for but may not have even known it. For decades, devoted fans have wondered why the Death Star had a design flaw that the Rebel Alliance could even think about exploiting. Rogue One answers that question. While there have been plenty of rumors about the characters and events in this stand-alone "bridge" between Episode III and Episode IV, the reality is that this story is very much in keeping with that you'd expect from that precarious moment when the Empire was basically at its most powerful. Jones and Luna are wonderful as Jyn and Cassian, both of whom have complicated pasts. In some ways, they're the opposite of Leia and Han, with Jyn the roguish heroine with a spotty reputation and Cassian the tried-and-true Rebel with a Cause. Their banter isn't quite as funny as Leia and Han's, but for that there's K-2SO , who drily states the probability of success in any given situation -- or why he thinks partnering with Jyn is a bad idea.
The supporting characters in Rogue One are a refreshingly diverse ensemble, with Chinese martial artists Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang playing blind warrior monk Chirrut Imwe and his assassin bestie, Baze Malbus. They're a fierce but comedic pair of old friends who have each other's backs. The Night Of breakout star Riz Ahmed plays an Imperial pilot who wants to help the Rebellion, and veteran actors Mendelsohn, Mikkelsen, and Forest Whitaker have pivotal roles on both sides of Dark and Light. The odds are against this lot of revolutionaries from the start, and the movie's epic battle sequences are the most violent of any Star Wars installment, sometimes bringing to mind the final Hunger Games films. The violence may be too much (and the Shakespearean-level of deaths too sad) for the youngest moviegoers, but otherwise this is a well-executed piece of Star Wars lore.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the amount of violence in Rogue One compares to what you've seen in other Star Wars movies. Do scenes of explosions and space battles affect you differently than those of close-up deaths? Why do you think that is? What makes more of an impact -- violence or loss?
Who are the movie's heroes? What makes them heroes? Are Jyn and Cassian role models? How does the diversity in this movie compare to what you've seen in other Star Wars movies? Why is that something worth paying attention to?
Talk about the Star Wars series' ongoing themes of trust, loneliness, good vs. evil, and father-child relationships. Why are they so integral to this series? How do they play out in this particular movie?
How well does Rogue One address unanswered questions from the original trilogy?
- In theaters: December 16, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: April 4, 2017
- Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn
- Director: Gareth Edwards
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 133 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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