Donnie Yen is no token figure in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen plays Chirrut Imwe, some kind of Jedi gongfu warrior. He gets to show off some moves and also has a poignant and pivotal scene towards the end.
Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen plays Chirrut Imwe, some kind of Jedi gongfu warrior. He gets to show off some moves and also has a poignant and pivotal scene towards the end. PHOTO: DISNEY
Donnie Yen arrives at the European Premiere of Star Wars Rogue One at the Tate Modern in London, Britain on Dec 13, 2016.
Donnie Yen arrives at the European Premiere of Star Wars Rogue One at the Tate Modern in London, Britain on Dec 13, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

REVIEW / FANTASY ADVENTURE

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (PG)

134 minutes/Opens Dec 15/3.5 stars

The story: The Rebel Alliance recruits a reluctant Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) in its war against the evil Galactic Empire. Her missing-for-years father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) has secretly sent a message about the Empire's powerful new weapon, the Death Star, through former Imperial pilot Bodhi (Riz Ahmed). She embarks on a mission together with intelligence officer Cassian (Diego Luna), blind warrior Chirrut (Donnie Yen), freelance assassin Baze (Jiang Wen) and android K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) to track down her father - and finds out that the planet-zapping Death Star has a weakness. Rogue One is the callsign of the space vehicle that they travel in.

For those who have wondered how the Empire could build such a powerful weapon of destruction and yet conveniently leave a fatal flaw in it that would allow Luke Skywalker to destroy it in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), this movie is for you.

Rogue One serves to bridge Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith (2005), which ends with the construction of the Death Star, and A New Hope, which starts with rebel leader Princess Leia having acquired the blueprint for it. But I suppose Episode 3.5 would have made for an awkward title.

 
 
 

Like the last Star Wars title, The Force Awakens (2015), this new instalment features a diverse cast in terms of gender and ethnicity.

Felicity Jones makes the jump from award-winning dramas (The Theory Of Everything, 2014) to big-budget movies (Inferno, 2016) and her strong-willed and quick-thinking heroine is compelling. Mexican actor Diego Luna and British-Pakistani actor-rapper Riz Ahmed are competent in their roles.

And, cue sigh of relief, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen is no mere token presence. Chirrut is some kind of Jedi gongfu warrior and Yen gets to show off some moves and also has a poignant and pivotal scene towards the end. In comparison, acclaimed Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen has less to do, though he does make an impact of sorts with his screen presence.

There is also comic relief from K-2SO, a droll droid in the tradition of C-3PO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, once part of the short-lived space adventure series Firefly (2002).

While the movie is a little confusing to follow at the beginning, jumping as it does from location to location, director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, 2014) soon gets a handle on its scale as he juggles more intimate moments between the characters with the bigger battle and space scenes.

So Rogue One is entertaining enough, but there is not much surprise as to how things turn out, given that we already know that Princess Leia has the plans in A New Hope. If only the story could have gone a little rogue.

bchan@sph.com.sg