Carl hits the play button on Gareth Edwards’ sublime Star Wars standalone…
Attention…this is not a Rogue Blu-Ray!
When Lucasfilm was sold to The Walt Disney company, we as fans felt a shudder of pure fear course through us. The “House of Mouse” now owned Star Wars? This was both unbelievable and unforgivable! How dare George Lucas sell out to Disney of all companies! Even promises of keeping the franchise pure and not “Disneyfying” it were not enough to appease the fans.
Then they pulled a masterstroke. Promoting Kathleen Kennedy to head of Lucasfilm and her announcement that we could look forward to a new trilogy of films in the classic Skywalker saga as well as planned standalone films peaked our interest and made us pull back from the brink of despair. Kathleen Kennedy, already a producing legend in her own right was the perfect choice to take the reigns of our beloved space saga. The keeper of our Saga was someone who knew our feelings, respected them and heard what the fans had to say and took note.
The Force Awakens blew us all away, bringing the almost perfect saga into the 21st century, 30 years after Return of the Jedi heralded what we thought was the final chapter of the Skywalker story and introduced us to new characters that stood alongside and not instead of our beloved heroes. If this is what they could pull out this time, what would the standalone films bring to the party? All of us rejoiced when they announced the title of the first standalone film was “Rogue One”, a classic title and a throwback to the console games we played in the 1990’s.
All we needed to know now was what it was ACTUALLY about!
I won’t dwell on the backstory as we all know now about what the film was about, about the re-shoots and the success of the film. That is now in the past as we look forward to the next “Episode” film, The Last Jedi, scheduled for release in December of this year but we recently got the opportunity to finally own Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on DVD and Blu-ray.
This is what this article is about…
I managed to get my copy of the film on Blu-ray over three weeks ago due to pre-ordering it early and paying over the odds to get it! I grabbed the region free edition from the states that comes with the Blu-ray, the DVD and a digital copy (Which sadly is only available for the United States and Canada). But its worth every penny. On opening the package, the film’s poster is replicated in fantastic colour on both the outer sleeve and the Blu-ray case itself and the back cover is lovingly reproduced in the same way. The colours are fantastically vibrant on the cover sleeve and stand out really well alongside other Blu-rays in my collection.
As soon as the Lucasfilm logo appeared on the screen, I noticed that the film looked amazing, the colour was outstanding and vibrant. The opening scene is superb on the small screen (I was viewing it on a 32″ Television, haven’t dared try it on my 52″ one yet!) and was struck by how the film looked good on the format. Of course, nothing will beat viewing the film on the big screen or in IMAX but this is still a great way to watch the film. The images leap out from the screen, the colours look as good as they did when I first saw the film at the cinema. The raindrops stunningly visible, the water landing on Galen Erso, the wind blowing Krennic’s cape, the Death Troopers (Sorely underused in the film) looking menacing in their black metallic armour, the famous blue milk, all look fantastic in the opening of the film and on the T.V screen, the picture is crystal clear and stunning.
After the Title card and we are thrust into the film, however, the picture starts to look a little grainy. Don’t get me wrong, the picture is still amazing but starts, in places to look harsher. However, considering this is a Star Wars “Proper” war film, it does tend to lend the film an authentic war movie look and feel instead of a space film with flashing lights and laser fire that we are used to with this franchise. Most of the grainy bits are isolated to Eadu, Jedha and in some places, Scarif but the sequence that looks gloomy more than any other is Wobani and the escape from the imperial vehicle taking our heroine, Jyn Erso to another imperial prison. For some strange reason, this part of the film and the Blu-ray looks more washed out and grainy than the rest of the film. However, these are minor quibbles with an otherwise fantastic disc.
We all now know that Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Princess Leia make an appearance in the film. If you so wish to, you can now slow the film down and look a bit more closely at the CGI Rendered appearances of the late, great Peter Cushing and our sadly recently departed princess, Carrie Fisher.
Of the two characters, Tarkin’s rendering looks better, one could almost believe Cushing had returned from his grave to put in a very special guest appearance to link the film to A New Hope. The disc makes this look almost real (as it was in the cinema) with, of course, a few tiny glitches along the way. The scenes with Tarkin are perfectly toned and coloured and again are crystal clear. Sadly, even though its only a brief appearance by Princess Leia in the films denouement, the rendering when she finally faces the audience still leaves a bit to be desired, the audience can see this is a visual effect and watching the film on home entertainment brings this home even more clearly. The DVD edition of the film is obviously not as clearly defined as a high definition image so the rendering is even more evident.
Overall, the film looks fantastic and the sound is out of this world. The effects can be heard clearly, the speech is not overridden by the blasts, explosions, music or roar of space vehicle engines just as it should be and Disney and Lucasfilm can take pleasure and pride in their mixing of all sound elements and how they are represented on both DVD and Blu-ray.
THE SPECIAL FEATURES
Sadly, as is becoming the norm these days, this is a tale of two formats, one greatly represented, the other now a sad fading memory being left in the dust. For the Blu-ray owners, a wealth of special features await you. For the DVD owner, you can have the film but that’s it, no special features at all for you on a bare-bones disc. This reminds me of the days when DVD first was released, all special features packaged on the bright new shiny disc with the film in its proper cinematic ratio while the poor old, tired VHS format gave you some trailers and the film in a pan and scan format and nothing else. DVD is going the way of VHS, a format that many people seem to be foregoing now and film companies regard as a dying format so most of the time just release Vanilla discs like this. I feel like DVD owners are being shortchanged against Blu-Ray owners these days like I felt when VHS started to die out.
But I digress. The special features packaged alongside the film are amazing and are worth watching after you’ve seen the film a few (hundred) times! Starting with “A Rogue idea”, a great informative extra that lets us learn how ILM’S John Knoll thought through the entire concept of the film and explains to us why he feels it was the right film to launch the standalone stories we are getting from Lucasfilm. Felicity Jones talks about her character, Jyn Erso and what it took and what it was like bringing her to life in “Jyn: The Rebel”.
“Cassian: The Spy” explores Diego Luna’s heroic character and the actor shares his insights into his creation of such a complex, highly driven character who becomes a hero through his selflessness and passion while the must watch “K-2SO-The Droid” explores the development of this highly likeable character, not only a great sidekick and comic relief but a droid we end up caring for during the course of the film. We find out in this extra about his initial pitch and character design all the way up to Alan Tudyk’s fantastic motion capture performance. “Baze and Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills” explores the intense relationship between these two very different characters with the actors behind these now loved heroes, the legendary Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, two fantastic Chinese superstars.
“Bodhi and Saw: The pilot and the revolutionary” takes us behind the scenes with actors Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed as they reflect on Saw Gerrera, the legendary and broken rebel leader and Bodhi Rook, the Imperial cargo pilots who defect and brings Galen Erso’s message and a warning to the Rebellion. “The Empire” lets us meet the new dangerous Imperial adversary, Director Orson Krennic and actor Ben Mendelsohn who brings this new character to life. And also lets us once again, cross paths with the most iconic villain of all time…no prizes for guessing who that is!
“Visions of hope: The look of Rogue One” allows the filmmakers the chance to relive the challenges and thrills of bringing us a bold new Star Wars film and the development of bringing a story to the screen that fits in within the worlds of the original trilogy. “The Princess and the Governor” shows us what it took to bring back two of Star Wars’ legendary characters to the big screen in the guises we first encountered them in. “Epilogue: The story continues” allows the filmmakers and the cast celebrate Rogue One’s Premiere and to look forward to the future and to the Star Wars stories that have yet to be told.
Finally, we have “Rogue Connections” which allows us to uncover Easter eggs and film facts hidden throughout the film that connects Rogue One to the Star Wars universe. Many of us have already seen some of the Easter eggs contained in the film but only an eagle-eyed, eared and devoted fan will be able to mention them all.
All in all, the Blu-ray is quite a good package, well worth owning and placing in your collection. However, as many people will by now know, the collectors edition of the film, with a directors commentary, deleted scenes and other extra extras will be coming towards the end of the year, similar to last years collectors edition of The Force Awakens so if you are not convinced to buy this copy, you will have to be patient and wait until October/November for this edition to be released. I, having been a fan since the beginning, could not wait so, of course, have grabbed this edition with both hands and as quickly as I could as will have millions of like-minded Star Wars fans and will certainly be buying the collectors edition later this year to go into my collection alongside it. Until that time, I shall enjoy spending time with Jyn and the rest of the Rogue One gang, laughing alongside K-2SO and his antics and his wit, Cheering for Chirrut and Baze, booing at Krennic and gasping at the epic cameo appearances of Darth Vader (His actions on board the Rebel ship still leave me with goose-bumps, finally we get to see Vader at his best with his lightsaber).
With that knowledge, I shall depart again to a galaxy far, far away so until we meet again….
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU….ALWAYS.
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