Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

2016 sequel prequel sequel

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Rebels try to steal plans for the Empire's planet-smashing weapon.

1) No opening crawl. I really don't care.

2) No John Williams. I do care. There were musical motifs or allusions or whatever that recalled pieces of memorable Star Wars moments, but for the most part this was new. I didn't really care for the score much. It just seemed off to me. I'm not sure if that's a lack of familiarity or if it's really not very good.

3) I thought I was caught up writing about movies and had somehow forgotten that I watched this.

4) I like how this leans almost entirely on brand new characters and settings, but it's still very attached to the other movies. And that's where these Disney Star Wars movies will be for the foreseeable future. That's fine. I'll see them and more than likely really like them, but I want to see what happens when the franchise ventures far far away from what's comfortable and into the unknown.

5) Those new characters are introduced pretty effortlessly. And I liked the new additions. Donnie Yen is probably my favorite as this Zatoichi-type character, but I liked the Alan Tudyk-voiced robot a lot, too.

6) That space action stuff looks so good.

7) Vader gets a moment that is as terrifying as anything seen in a Star Wars movie, and it makes you realize exactly why everybody wets their pants when they see him in the original trilogy. Of course, he also delivers a pun that is about as embarrassing as his "Noooooo!" in Episode Three. And I know there's no expression on his face exactly, but you can almost see this regret there. Like, he says the line and then thinks, "Ah, shit. That was kind of stupid."

8) There are other cameos, some by CGI versions of original trilogy characters. Peter Cushing is brought back to life, and Carrie Fisher is transformed into that cute-as-a-button younger version of herself. I'm not sure how I feel about that exactly, and I don't even know if I thought they looked any good at all. C3PO and R2D2 make an awkward appearance and basically say (or beep), "Hello, audience. Remember us? We're in the other Star Wars movies."

9) [Spoiler?] There's another cameo by the two guys Luke and Obi-Wan have a run-in with in the Mos Eisley cantina. They get in an argument after bumping into a character in a busy street and then manage to escape that particular city before it's Death-Starred into oblivion. Then, they whisk off to Tatooine where one of them gets his arm chopped off. It's a bad day for those two fellows, I guess. I'd like to imagine that the one who kept both arms told his friend, "Hey, I know a great doctor on Alderaan. Let's go there." They'd probably bump into somebody there, too, right before being blown to pieces.

10) Some of the landscapes are breathtaking here. When I eventually watch this back-to-back with A New Hope, probably the beauty of a lot of the shots in this will be what clashes with the original movie the most.

11) Vader lives on some sort of lava planet. You'd think he'd want to stay as far away from lava as possible.

12) Of the performances, I think Forest Whitaker and Ben Mendelsohn's are the best. The former is the character whose backstory I'd like to get to know more. He was an interesting character, and I'd like to know what happened to his feet. Mendelsohn plays an Empire stooge trying to work his way up the ranks.

13) I was completely satisfied with how things ended for all of the characters involved.

14) I really liked how Disney and director Gareth Edwards and the various screenwriters played around with antiheroes and heroines in this. There's a moral ambiguity to a lot of what's going on, and it gives the whole thing another layer to consider.

15) This has less light saber action than Episode Four. I'm not saying it has any at all, but if it has any, it's definitely less. To make up for it, there's a killer scene with Yen where he takes out a bunch of storm troopers with a stick of some kind. He's not a Jedi, but he probably moves better than every other force-using character we've seen with the possible exception of Darth Maul. He's kind of a bad ass.

16) Like the cantina scene in the original, this has fun with throwing a lot of strange characters to look at in some scenes. To me, that's one of the things that will give this some rewatchability. Large chunks of the movie are direct and straightforward, but there are other scenes I'd like to see again to pay better attention to all the little details I might have missed.

17) I think this movie stumbled out of the gates a little bit. In fact, I was a little worried. It took a bit for this to get its footing. When it did, however, I thought it was paced very well and maintained a consistent and nearly perfect tone for the duration.

18) Rogue One is at least even with Force Awakens on any list I'd make of Star Wars movies, and it probably gets the edge because it's more original. Or is it? Objectively, it's likely better than any of the prequels although there are still a lot of things I really like about those three movies. And this is better than Return of the Jedi. So in my mind, that puts this movie--at least right now after seeing it only the one time--in the top half of Star Wars movies.

19) God, these movies make me feel like a little kid again. I get goosebumps, I tear up a little, and want to cheer from my theater seat. There's just something magical about the whole thing.

20) [Spoiler] Back to that Darth Vader scene. You see the rebels scared of the guy in A New Hope when he struts in after his storm trooper pals. But it's hearing them scream "Help!" in this that really sells it. The lighting in that scene, the glimpse of a light saber (the only time you see one in this movie), the furious burst of action. It's just so beautiful violent, and I'm telling you, genuinely frightening.

21) Now another countdown begins for Episode VIII.

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