If The Force Awakens proved Star Wars could thrive in a post-Lucas world, Rogue One finally delivers on the long-awaited promise of a vaster universe. While not one of the core “episodes,” the spectacular space adventure expands the galaxy far, far away on the big screen.
So, you remember that scene in Star Wars where Princess Leia inputs the plans for the Death Star into R2-D2? Well, Rogue One fills in the preceding events that led to those plans falling into the hands of the Rebel Alliance. In the simplest terms, it is another prequel, were that term not unfairly sullied by episodes I–III. The Rebels have tasked Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) with finding her father (Mads Mikkelsen), the Imperial science officer who designed the Empire’s super-weapon. Ultimately, Jyn and her allies—Rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), an imperial defector (Riz Ahmed), a couple of warriors (Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen) and a new droid, K-2SO (v. Alan Tudyk)—discover the flaw that will lead to the Death Star’s destruction.
Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and the odd screenwriting duo of Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy craft one of the most wholly satisfying Star Wars entries since 1983. The new characters, good and evil, are as appealing as ever; Ben Mendelsohn earns top marks as Director Krennic. Too much of a CGI Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin is unappealing but not fatal; a couple of extended appearances by Darth Vader, especially glimpsing his private castle on a fiery planet, more than make up for it. The climactic land-and-space battle may be a franchise high-water mark. Rogue One shows just how strong the Force continues to be.
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