There is Final Twist in “Rogue One”
SPOILER ALERT: This post contains major plot details for the ending of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If you haven’t seen the film, make the jump to hyperspace now before you ruin it for yourself. Don’t end up like this guy.
The third act of Rogue One may be one of the most stunning cinematic achievements in movie history.
After witnessing the rebels’ visceral, breathtaking and ultimately suicidal attack on the Imperial base on Scarif, we barely have a moment to breathe after Jyn and Cassian succeed in transmitting the Death Star plans to the Alliance ships above the planet. No sooner are the vital blueprints in friendly hands than Darth Vader comes to retrieve them.
We saw hints of Vader’s power in the original Star Wars trilogy, but nothing comes close to the harrowing encounter the rebel soldiers have with the villain as they scramble to slow the Dark Lord’s progress — many of them falling to the Sith’s lightsaber in what is more a massacre than a fight.
The fact that it’s the only time we see that iconic weapon in the film only heightens its impact. As stunning as the lightsaber battles in the prequel trilogy were, they were often between evenly-matched opponents. In Rogue One, it’s straight-up murder, with Vader mowing down rebels like they’re bowling pins.
Even knowing that the Death Star plans eventually make it into Leia’s possession, that doesn’t ease the tension of the terrifying scene — in that moment, the panic is as real for us as it is for the poor rebel who knows he’s about to meet a horrifying end at Vader’s hand.
And speaking of Leia, who saw that coming?
Rogue One did an incredible job of digitally recreating Grand Moff Tarkin — considering that Peter Cushing, the actor who originally portrayed him, died in 1994. You wouldn’t know it from this movie.
But the film definitely saved the best reveal for last. It closes on the youthful visage of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia as the plans are triumphantly delivered into her hands. A new hope indeed.
The movie couldn’t really have ended any other way. Vader and Leia’s appearances tie the end of Rogue One neatly into the beginning of Episode IV. But the fact that it still feels wholly surprising is a testament to director Gareth Edwards’ skill.
Did the CGI rendering veer a little too far into the uncanny valley at times? Undoubtedly — and I think it was more noticeable with Leia than Tarkin, who had the benefit of lurking in the shadows for much of the film.
But it was still a punch in the gut to see Leia as fresh-faced as she was in 1977, and the crowd at the Hollywood premiere of the film hit the roof with euphoria at that big reveal.
According to the Washington Post, the producers cast an actor to stand in for digital Cushing on set — the similarly cheekboned — before digitally augmenting his features. That helped them avoid the “dead-eyed” look that’s typical of fully CGI characters attempting to pass as human in movies such as Polar Express.
There’s no official word yet on how Leia was created and whether Carrie Fisher was involved, but Lucasfilm sources tell Mashable she was entirely CGI — which might explain why she didn’t work quite as well as Tarkin.
Few things can rival the spectacle of watching the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. But it’s refreshing to know that the franchise is still at the forefront of cutting edge visual effects and inventiveness under the auspices of John Knoll, ILM’s chief creative officer and Rogue One‘s visual effects supervisor.
The Force is definitely strong with Rogue One, and it’s impossible to predict where Lucasfilm’s collective imagination will take us next.