Like all of the Star Wars films, Star Wars: Rogue One (2016; dir. Gareth Edwards) marks an advance in the possibilities of digital technology. The special effects are spectacular. The use of the planet killer weapon was chilling. While in the first Star Wars film from 1977, the weapon caused the planet merely to blow up in an explosion of sparks and flames and noise, in Rogue One, when the weapon is used to destroy cities, the thermonuclear blast that ravages the landscape for hundreds of miles around is overwhelming.
Digital technologies and the possibilities they afford have raised certain questions that are under debate by reviewers. As to whether certain characters resurrected from the past after 20 or 50 years look real and convincing, I don’t have a strong opinion. Peter Cushing has been dead for 20 years, so when he appeared on screen as Grand Moff Tarkin, commander of the Death Star, I knew he was a digital effect. He looked real enough to me. Another effect at the end of the film happened so quickly I hardly had time to examine it. Some reviewers regarded it as transparently artificial. While I did feel there was something unusual about it, it worked well and offered a poignant and moving image with which to end the film, especially given recent events.
As digital technology has advanced it has become possible to put numerous complicated effects on screen simultaneously. This is both a benefit and a challenge. Sometimes Rogue One is a bit too busy. At moments so many things are happening that it is difficult to keep up.
Let there be no doubt: the film is entertaining. Although it took me a while to figure out who the different characters were and whose side they were on, I enjoyed the film and was often on the edge of my seat.
Star Wars: Rogue One is dark, perhaps the darkest of all the Star Wars films so far. Unless I missed something, any sequels will certainly have a cast of new characters.