“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” So begins “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” But that is all the film’s opening has in common with episodes I – VII. There is no wordy crawl, giving you a hint at what’s been going on before you sat down in the theatre. No, this is Episode III.V – 3.5 – and if you’re even vaguely familiar with the previous seven films, you pretty much know what’s about to take place.
Set eighteen years (my guess) after the events of “Episode III,” “Rogue One” is the tale of the band of rebels who risked everything attempting to steal the plans for the original Death Star. The film begins when Galen Orso (the always great Mads Mikkelsen) is taken by the Empire to help complete the Death Star. His young daughter, Jyn (Beau Gadson) is left behind and forced to fend for herself for many years. We meet up with Jyn again as an adult. As portrayed by Felicity Jones, she is a young woman of resolve, one who has continually searched the galaxy for her father. She teams up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a member of the rebellion. When word comes that one of the Empire’s pilots has defected and is telling stories about the Death Star, the duo put together a small group of like-minded people to assist in stealing the battle station’s plans.
As much as I would love to go into more plot details, I fear the good folks at Disney would have me torn apart by a Gundark. And so would you, dear readers. Let’s just say that the film is a well-made addition to the saga. The cast is surely up to the task, with Jones and Luna giving strong performances. The supporting players do just as well but I’ll single out Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior whose devotion to the Force knows no limit. A shout out also to Alan Tudyk as K-2S0, a droid with more than a little attitude.
Written by Oscar nominees Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) and Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”), the screenplay is a fine combination of dark and funny. Director Edwards, who helmed 2014’s “Godzilla,” keeps the film moving quickly. The special effects, as expected, are beautifully presented. The X and Y wings jump off the screen as they zoom by. Another visual triumph concerns the return of a familiar character who is rendered by the same process that was used to feature the 1980’s version of Jeff Bridges in “Tron Legacy.” However, while I found the effects in “Tron” to be quite disconcerting, the effect here is breathtaking.
This is the first “Star Wars” film not to be scored by John Williams and it suffers for it. Though some of Williams’ original music is included, the main composer here is Oscar winner Michael Giacchino (“UP”). The score is not unpleasant, but when it’s followed by Williams’ music, it sadly pales. But if you were going for the music you’d just buy the CD. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a fine stand-alone film and one that will have you anticipating “Episode VIII,” which is just a short 367 days away!