Honestly, I wasn’t planning on seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theaters until I started seeing reviews and spoilers. As a one off story that wasn’t a “numbered sequel,” it seemed like one I could skip. Also, I wasn’t very familiar with most of the actors in it (aside from Forrest Whitaker). Ultimately, I made the trip down to Sedalia to watch it in 3D (using their crappy 3D glasses…next time, I probably won’t even bother with that 3D system…).
The story serves as a transitional film between Episodes III and IV, centering on the group of rebels who steal the plans for the Death Star that allow Luke Skywalker to destroy it in A New Hope. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is joined by other rebels in an attempt to reach her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), who is a key figure in the science program tasked with building the Death Star.
First, the good: the movie is steeped with nostalgia. Director Gareth Edwards does a great job replicating the 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope look, complete with 70s-era hair and prosthetics. There are quite a few digital characters interspersed, but they generally looked great. The sets also look dirty, which grounds the film in a sense of realism. The dusty storm trooper helmets and dirty ships make the viewer feel as though there is history here, as opposed to a clean, sterile look. As other reviewers have noted, the movie also does a good job of adding stakes to the Rebellion that weren’t really there in A New Hope. You get a sense that these rebels are actually fighting for something, instead of some ethereal principle that was discussed in the Original Trilogy.
As far as the characters go, many of them do serviceable jobs, but there aren’t that many stand-out performances. The only exception is Alan Tudyk, who voices the repurposed Imperial Droid, K-2SO. He steals the show in any scene he’s in, providing just the right level of comic relief.
Also, spoiler: Grand Moff Tarken is in it. Played by Peter Cushing. Who died in 1994. He shows up in at least 3 scenes and he looked gooooooood. It’s kinda controversial that he’s in there at all, but having his interactions shown at the birth of the Death Star were invaluable to the story.
However, while some story beats were strong, others were quite weak. The solution to getting the plans from the Scarif planet surface to the Rebel Fleet in orbit didn’t make much sense to me. The convenience of having the daughter of the critical guy at the center of the Death Star Project (and why he’s so necessary is never explained) available to the Rebels. The fact that Jyn Erso turns-on-a-dime from “The Rebellion Is Stupid” to “We Must Stop The Death Star At All Costs.” The shallow character development of nearly all of these individuals in why it all matters (which, again, is addressed, but to do it right, more is necessary).
I enjoyed the movie, but I bet I could have waited to see it as a rental. It does a good job of setting up A New Hope and provides a healthy amount of “Easter Eggs” for the most die-hard of Star Wars fans, yet those that aren’t really big fans of the series will find plenty of plot holes to pick apart.