Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Ben Daniels, Guy Henry, Ingvild Deila, and more.
Directed by: Gareth Edwards Story by: John Knoll and Gary Whitta Screenplay by: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas Cinematography by: Greig Fraser Music by: Michael Giacchino
Premise: A cargo pilot defects from the Empire, claiming to have information about a weapon which can destroy worlds. The pilot falls into the hands of an ostracized militant faction of the Rebels. To try to get the information, the main group of Rebels track down the daughter of the man the information came from. She also happens to who knows the head of the faction holding the pilot. So the main group is hoping to use her for an introduction with the splinter faction and mend fences. Jyn has been hiding her true identity for most of her life, her father torn from her and her mentor leaving her behind years before. But when she does this one favor for the Rebellion, she starts seeing there is much out there she had no idea about. And that what the Empire is planning is bigger and more horrifying than she ever imagined.
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: The cast is a fun and quirky set of characters. At first, it seems they won't fit together, but they end up meshing very well. Felicity Jones was fun to watch as Jyn Erso. The character has built a thick, protective shell around herself. Felicity does a wonderful job of showing it slowly cracking and eventually falling away. Diego Luna as Cassian Andor also did a great job. Having done unspeakable things in the name of freedom, he too finds his shell cracking as he's made to deal with Jyn. Alan Tudyk was awesome as K-2SO. Not only for nice bits of levity but also for some truly poignant moments. Riz Ahmed brought a lot on as Bohdi Rook. The poor pilot goes through so much just to try to do the right thing. Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were a fun duo that added some extra fun layers to the team.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: The special effects team did a superb job. The devastation from just a small blast from the Death Star was jaw dropping. The multiple views of it from the ground and from space were amazing.
They brought back all the old favorite ships and machines as well as several new ones. Loved seeing the main dish being placed on the Death Star - made for a nice backdrop to the conversation between Tarkin and Krennic.
But what was truly impressive work from the department, a lot of people won't even realize is happening. And that is the work they did with Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila to recreate the characters of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. It was both eerie and amazing on how well the CGI and the new actors meshed together to bring back these characters of almost forty years ago from when the original Star Wars Episode IV first came out. (Peter Cushing passed in 1994 and Carrie Fisher is much older now than she was back then. :P)
A lot of the locations were recreated and made to look as we'd seen them before. Others were brand new. We even finally get an awesome tropical beach location! (Best outpost to be assigned as a trooper ever!)
Darth Vader's Sith temple was also quite cool looking. The only planet location in the film they did not disclose. lol.
Tons of shooting, explosions, pistols, rifles, bombs, and more! But for the first time ever - no lightsabers! *gasp*
3) Plot/Story - Thumbs Up: The Good - A lot better thought out than The Force Awakens! So, yay for that! Lots of good bits and homage/in-jokes in the film from other Star Wars films. They went to a lot of trouble to replicate places and things as we'd seen them in the original set of movies. Bringing in Tarkin and making him part of the whole thing was awesome. Adding K-2SO was genius. Mouthy robots are in lately. lol.
Layered characters with thought out motivations. They pulled at the heart strings in several places. I thought it hilarious that after going through all the trouble to make it so Han Solo didn't shoot first, they turned around and gave us Cassian Andor. The first scene with him definitely left no doubts as to who did what.
Like Titanic, we pretty much know how this will end, but it was worth watching it happen. And the way they tie the end of the film to the beginning of Episode IV was great. (Aside from the nitpicks below.)
The Bad - There wasn't much. And for most people, it won't make a difference. But I must do my duty. :P (We watched Episode IV right after so I did a double check!) Mon Mothma did not make an appearance until Episode VI, but she was the main focus person at Yavin 4 in this prequel. They also had a character that sounded and looked like Admiral Ackbar, which didn't make sense particularly in the large battle. (*Warning - Spoilers!*) Worse, the transmission was not a beamed transmission to one location, but one sent wide to all ships in the area. So how is it that some of the rebel ships escaped but we still only had one copy of the data? What...? If I somehow missed something explaining this, let me know!
One last nitpick. This is a big galaxy. There are bound to be wide variations in clothing styles and home architecture. But you'll note a lot of the costumes are familiar, pilfered from different areas of the first three films. While some are expected, especially since they are recreating some of the locations, it didn't make sense everywhere. Where it worked the least, in my opinion, was the humid planet where Jyn's father has hiding. Subterranean houses in this environment would be terribly risky. And do they not believe in rain gear in that world?
One bit I thought cute and not cute was an obtuse bit of homage. In the original Star Wars, Lucas based the characters of R2D2 and 3CPO on two side characters in the Japanese film "The Hidden Fortress" by Akira Kurosawa with actor Toshiro Mifune. In turn, this new film has a scene with the character Baze Malbus that was very reminiscent of another Akira Kurosawa film. Heck, in the scene, you'd swear the actor Wen Jiang looked just like Toshiro Mifune! (Or I have too wild of an imagination? :P) But doing it didn't feel quite right?
Overall, though, it was a good film! Yay!
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Tons of explosions also means loads of stunt work. Rebels and Storm troopers are blown about all over the place. Throw in some excellent staff combat by Chirrut Imwe and the stunt people were kept quite busy. :P
5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: I was very pleased to note they didn't use the same cheat they did with "The Force Awakens" concerning locations. They actually went out of their way to find a new look for several of the new worlds. For the planets already known, they did a great job bringing back the same look and feel as they'd had previously. So yay for trying to prove all worlds in the vast galaxy aren't all the same!
6) Music - Total Thumbs Up: I've read that this is the first Star Wars film without a John William's score. Michael Giacchino took the reins of this one. And while creating several new tracks, they also kept some of the old ones. A nice way to mesh the two sets. Giacchino also kept the spirit of the style created for this franchise, so it was in good hands.
Conclusion: Rogue One has some minor flaws, but overall it beat the pants out of The Force Awakens. :P Great addition to the franchise!
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)