Now that’s how you make a Star Wars movie.

Not only does Rogue One fit snuggly into the Lucas-created universe, it all but erases the many annoyances caused by last year’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens (and, yes, I was among those who walked out of the theater last December very, very annoyed).

Taking place in the weeks leading up to the events of the original Star Wars (A New Hope, for those who are too young to remember it as simply Star Wars), Rogue One centers on the rebellion’s efforts to steal the Death Star plans and get them to someone (named Princess Leia) before the Empire can squash the rebellion. Yes, we all know they succeed, but that doesn’t even remotely prevent Rogue One from being an utterly enthralling, nail-biting thrill ride.

Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), working from a script by Tony Gilroy (The Bourne series) and Chris Weitz (About a Boy), has crafted an downright excellent film, full of memorable characters, snappy dialogue, and expertly-choreographed battle sequences. The audience is instantly transported into a whole new universe (though some of it will look happily familiar), and it’s a ride well worth taking.

An opening prologue introduces us to Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a rebel sympathizer who was recruited by the Empire to work on the Death Star’s planet-killer laser beam. Erso’s expertise in Kyber crystals make him invaluable, since Kybers fuel the all-powerful weapon. He abandons his work, though, and escapes to a farm with his wife and his child Jyn. It’s not long, though, before the Empire hunts him down, in the person of Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), an evil commander hell-bent on proving himself to the Emperor. Krennic takes Erso back to finish the job, but Erso’s daughter escapes.

15 years later, Jyn (Felicity Jones) is tracked down by the rebellion, who wants to use her as bait, so they can kill Erso and prevent the Death Star’s completion. The best laid plans, though, go awry, and eventually Jyn finds herself leading a small, rag-tag group of rebels on a seemingly suicidal mission to steal the plans herself.

I won’t give away any spoilers (I fear I’d fall victim to a lightsaber swipe across my midsection if I did), but I will say that Rogue One is full of familiar faces from elsewhere in the Star Wars world, and they all help blend the film seamlessly into the canon. From CG trickery to character cameos, the appearances come in many different forms, but they all work, and not a one feels out of place.

The balance of the film is populated by inventive new characters, including Diego Luna’s Captain Andor, who helps organize Jyn’s mission; Forrest Whitaker’s gruff rebel hero Saw Gerrera, who rescued Jyn as a child; and the reprogrammed Imperial droid K2-SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, who provides the film’s comic relief.

From the familiar scream of TIE Fighters zipping by overhead to the infectious pew pew! of rebel blasters, Rogue One doesn’t skimp anywhere in its efforts to instantly re-immerse audiences back into filmdom’s most popular and well-known galaxy. The result is hands-down the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back─and one that gives new hope (pun intended) to those of us who had lost a little barely a year ago.

The Force is strong with this one.


4.5/5 stars

Worth the 3D glasses?

Honestly? Not really. Sure there are plenty of swoopy flying scenes and a ton of those pew pew! lasers being shot at your face, but the beauty of the film is not in its 3D trickery, it’s in the characters and the story…and you don’t need a pair of plastic glasses to appreciate those.