Review by C.J. Bunce
How can a movie get better on repeated viewings? What makes that possible? After three viewings of the home release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–the Digital HD edition, the Blu-ray, and the 3D Blu-ray–it’s apparent the film on repeated viewings is indeed as good as the initial theatrical viewing if not better, a rare feat in any genre. Naysayers who didn’t like the CGI effects of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia–the primary criticism of the December theatrical release–should find even a home theater big screen television will mask any distractions seen on a 30-foot theater screen. The Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray provide the best, clearest picture and sound of any prior Star Wars release. The 3D transfer is as good as any 3D Blu-ray release to-date, and the special effects, clothing details like stitches and seams are clear and vivid, as is the weathering (or lack thereof, when logical) on props. As with most 3D movies, outdoor scenes, like the Scarif ground battle, are even more vivid with sharp foregrounds and backgrounds. Check out the complete review of the film from December here.
The special features disc includes a version of the bonus features viewable together as an entire documentary and also viewable by chapter. The extra disc available through Target stores only includes two short extra chapters, and although the creature shop feature is excellent the two extras wouldn’t normally be enough to tilt a buyer toward the Target edition–costs being the same–and some may instead opt for packaging, like Steelbook boxes (Best Buy only) or Connexions cards (available only in the Wal-Mart edition). Fun bits in the features to look for include Bodhi actor Riz Ahmed’s audition tapes for Edwards, a feature documenting many Easter eggs from the show even the best eye likely never identified, and interviews with motion capture actors Guy Henry (Grand Moff Tarkin) and Ingvild Daila (Princess Leia), both who look little like Peter Cushing or Carrie Fisher, proving that simply using lookalikes or prosthetics would not have been a realistic option for re-creating these characters. The standard bonus features included with the bundles are 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, Epilogue: The Story Continues, and Rogue Connections (the Easter eggs list).
Rogue One easily merits ranking as the third best film in the series after Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back–but truly in a league with those two films. One of the best war movie stories put to film, the best prequel or prequel that is also a sequel (yes, even considering the great Godfather II), the best space battle, the best use of spaceship filming (director Gareth Edwards avoids 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Motion Picture-era overly-long ship takes and instead uses his imagery only as necessary to drive the story forward), while featuring one of the all-time best heist movies.
It really has it all.
And after three viewings in one day, Rogue One holds up, never getting boring or dull, completely rewatchable like Star Wars: A New Hope, Jaws, Silverado, or Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home–a classic that will easily be seen again and again by fans and remain as exciting as the initial viewing. Four months later Rogue One stands up as a film worthy of borg.com‘s best movie of the year, best sci-fi fix, best action movie, best cinematography, best Easter eggs, best cameos, best action sequence, best visual effects, with the best direction of the year by Gareth Edwards–up there with Akira Kurosawa’s best work.
So many great concepts can be found in Rogue One, like the intentional absence of romance and any hint of romantic chemistry between Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso and Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, one of the greatest fantasy film characters of all time in Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe (and his own Samwise Gamgee in Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus), great background characters like Warwick Davis’s large-mouthed alien Weeteef, Alan Tudyk’s great motion capture and voice performance as K-2SO, even an X-Wing pilot leader that looks like real-life astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield, and all three of the franchise’s best villains in one film: Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Ben Mendelsohn’s ambitious Director Orson Krennic. If you love these characters, you’ll want to read their backstories in the novel Tarkin, reviewed here, and Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, reviewed here.
When looking back at my review of Rogue One in December, one critique stands out: Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack. On repeated viewings it is far better than I initially reviewed it, and the subtlety I would have given it demerits for on first viewing was likely the result of the visual powerhouse that overshadowed the score. In fact this is one of Giacchino’s best works, with quick queue changes (following director Gareth Edwards’ several quick scene changes) providing familiar keys but few actual uses of direct themes for most of the film. Overall it’s a better, more innovative, score than John Williams score to The Force Awakens.
Social media is abuzz with its usual criticisms, which focus almost exclusively on the lack of deleted scenes for this release. As Edwards has already stated, the unused footage can be found in the trailers. Check them out here. Perhaps an Edwards voice over is in order for a later release, but beyond that, this release delivers and will satisfy most Star Wars fans. As for details, the home release is a Star Wars cosplayer’s dream information source, and prop replica makers can see every detail of consoles and other set pieces.
The Digital HD only version of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is available here, the DVD is available here, the Steelbook edition (3D Blu-ray and Blu-ray) is here, the Blu-ray (includes DVD and Digital HD) here, the 3D Blu-ray (includes also Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD) is available here, and the 3D Blu-ray Target edition (includes also Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and two extra features (creature shop and director feature) is here.