Rogue One: A Star Wars Story expands on the familiar universe that we know and love with excellent characters and a dynamite third act.
Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Summary: The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
The review will be spoiler free
There is a lot riding on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; while Star Wars: The Force Awakens was there to breathe life into the series and bring in new fans, Rogue One is here to see if those old and new fans will accept a story outside of the main set of films. It's about as risky a move a major company like Disney could make. If this fails then they would have to reevaluate the entire business model they have going forward. This project has also been littered with bad press with rumors of reshooting up to 40% of the film. None of this boded well but most fans were cautiously optimistic, if nothing else. It seems that they can put their worries to rest because despite a rocky first half Rogue One is an excellent film that delivers in all the ways that count.
There won't be any discussion of plot points, aside from the basic plot which is that the rebels mission is to steal the Death Star plans that kick off the events of the original Star Wars. The thing that makes Rogue One such a breath of fresh air is that it's a Star Wars movie without being a Star Wars movie. The window dressing is all there and the familiar elements are all there, but the feeling of the movie is entirely different from the rest of the movies. There is a real sense of danger with the knowledge that a main character could die at any moment. It's rare for a movie to truly feel like anyone in the main cast is in danger of dying but Rogue One accomplished this flawlessly.
It's not a perfect film. The first act is a little clunky. This is the first Star Wars movie where the location is printed on the screen but we jump to multiple locations within the first few minutes. It's setting up our group of heroes as they all come together for the final mission. However, once the movie gets going it's awe inducing. The ground battles look like something out of Full Metal Jacket and the space battles have never looked better. It's rounded out by an excellent cast who all bring their A game with Diego Luna and Donnie Yen being the standouts. Director Gareth Edwards also has a great sense of scale that really makes the size of things like Star Destroyers or even the Death Star feel that much more real. The ending, which will not be spoiled here, is a gut punch in the best kind of way.
Rogue One is a movie that had the odds set against it but came out shining in the end. There are a lot of missing scenes from the trailers but we can hope for all of them in the blueray release. Until then we can rest easy realizing that Disney and Lucasfilm know what they're doing with these spinoffs.