Rogue One is a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe. I just want to say that up front before I get into any details. It's a fun movie, dark at times, and it feels (at least to me) like coming home a little bit- and by that I mean revisiting the Star Wars story the right way. After last years disappointing Star Wars: The Force Awakens I wasn't sure what to expect here, and I went from indifference early on to quite a lot of interest as this movie arrived. A lot of the attraction for me is the cast of characters- it's nice to have new characters, so that this feels truly like a spin off story and not a Skywalker episode.
Jyn Erso is awesome. I had an idea from the trailers that I would like her, and I was right. The casting of Felicity Jones was fabulous, and her and Diego Luna as Cassian Andor are top notch leads. Nothing against Daisy Ridley but I'd rather watch Jyn Erso any day than Rey from A Force Awakens. Many have mentioned the problems with Rey's character -she can do anything, she is a powerful Force user right off the bat, etc- and I agree with all of that. Here Jyn is a badass because she's had a rough life and she's not a Force user- she's just a person trying to do the right thing.
Other standouts in the cast for me are Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe (a Force sensitive) and Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus (a warrior who protects Chirrut)- they sort of round out the prinicpal cast along with Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook (an Imperial pilot). They all work and again there are no Skywalkers in sight- and you can't have Star Wars without a droid! Here we get K-2SO a rejiggered Imperial droid who now serves the Rebellion. Many have said he's a scene- stealer and he is with his snarky dialogue.
You may notice I haven't mentioned the plot. Well it's basically a caper to recover the plans for the Death Star- straight out of the first movie. This is pretty well known so I won't dwell on it. This is more of a war movie too as you get the sense that these are soldiers and spies, so naturally there's a body count. In fact I was surprised in the first few minutes how ruthless Cassian was shown to be- that was kind of new for Star Wars. I liked it. Some have said that this is the Star Wars movie that adult fans were waiting for- those of us who remember the original trilogy fondly but were turned off by the prequels and The Force Awakens. All I can say is- yup.
I mentioned it is dark at times. It is and I wouldn't take young kids to this. I'll get into more why below in the SPOILER section. Also it's not a perfect movie. There are a lot of cameos and Easter eggs from the original movies. It's probably not a spoiler at this point to mention that Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader are in this- there's been some controversy over using Tarkin since the actor is long dead. They created him using CGI and for me it didn't work- it was obviously CGI and I cringed every time. I don't think he needed to be here frankly, and Darth Vader didn't entirely work for me.
I don't want to say more above the spoiler tag since I'm going to get into details a bit. Suffice to say this is a good Star Wars movie- perhaps not quite reaching the level of the original trilogy (although in some ways it surpasses those) and the kind of film I've been looking for. It finally feels like someone did it right. The middle get a bit clunky but overall this is a good movie with some emotional moments and strong characters.
Here be spoilers! I'm hoping that those who've seen the movie or want to discuss it will do so in the comments although I know that can tough for those who want to be spoiled. There's so much going on here though that I really wanted to talk more in depth. So... where to begin? I'll start with characters. I thought Mads Mikkelson was great as Galen Erso and Ben Mendelsohn surprisingly seemed a little over the top - I'm so tired of villains with no nuance. He's a good actor so I expected a bit more. I could have used more of Mikkelson and less of Mendelsohn.
Again Tarkin looked horrible. And Darth Vader looked okay although I expected him to be a little more imposing- he was clearly meant to intimidate Krennic in their scene together but that didn't entirely work for me. His dialogue too was clunky- he sounded good with James Earl Jones doing the voice again, but his dialogue sucked. And the end where he wipes out a bunch of rebels- that actually didn't work for me either. I'm sure him coming aboard a rebel ship and activating his lightsaber was supposed to be a badass moment, but for me it was like Yoda jumping around- sometimes less is more. I would have gotten more mileage if he would have stood by impassively while stormtroopers cleared the way, but I'm sure some people liked.
Obviously if you've seen it you know that a lot of people die. I would have liked a few of them to make it actually- the galaxy is a big place, there's no reason some couldn't have made it, you could always say they're off doing something else when the Skywalkers take over the story. So that was unnecessary. I liked Jyn and Cassian a lot though- it's a shame we don't get to see them again. As for the cameos- I thought Leia looked ridiculous just like Tarkin. The cameos I did like were Artoo and Threepio. I was hoping we'd see them and they were there only for a minute- but that worked.
I loved the planet Scarif. We haven't seen a tropical planet before in the series (or maybe we have in the cartoons but I haven't watched those) and it looked stunning. Fabulous location shooting. Otherwise I thought we visited perhaps too many planets, especially in the early going- there were four or five total I think?- so it was a bit of a travelogue perhaps, but Scarif was nice. One complaint I have though is the propensity in Star Wars for certain controls or devices to be in odd (read: plot dependent) places. Like on Scarif where they need to flip a switch and the switch is- not in a secure building- but on a beach. There was a lot of that in this movie. And the final space battle, while excellent in many ways, was very reminiscent of a scene from Return of the Jedi where a star destroyer is disabled and crashes. Star destroyers were not effective in this movie!
It was nice to see Yavin IV as well. I loved the scene where ships are taking off and we see a sentry or whatever he is on his perch tracking their movement- with the gas giant Yavin huge in the background- that was a nice callback. So again this movie had so many callbacks and Easter eggs and some worked while others didn't- but all in all this felt like a Star Wars movie.