One year ago, the first Star Wars film in a decade was released. The anticipation for The Force Awakens, was long gestating. That film had something to prove. It had to be better than the ultimately lackluster prequel films that came before it. Now, with only a year since audiences were plunged back into the Star Wars universe, comes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
From its inception, Rogue One carries less responsibility than any Star Wars film that came before it. With a cast of main characters that are completely disconnected from the rest of the films, the fans have less to pick over. More than any other, Rogue One is very much a standalone film, and there is where it finds its greatest strength. The film takes place in between Episode III and A New Hope. As a child, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jone) was separated from her father (Mads Mikkelson) when he was taken and forced to work as an engineer for the Galactic Empire. Years later, Jyn receives a message from her father, who informs her that he has built the Death Star with a weak spot, the very spot that when impacted will destroy the entire ship. Thus, Jyn must join a group of rebel soldiers to steal the plans for the Death Star.
Rather remarkably, Rogue One plays like a really great war film. The extended battle sequences are really quite incredible and director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) manages to make them both engrossing and emotional. Ultimately, Edwards is allowed to take risks with this film and it is these risks that prevent it from feeling like a cash grab. Though a standalone film, the film feels at home in the Star Wars universe due to the beloved humor and some exciting minor-character cameos. The void of C-3PO is filled perfectly by K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) who manages to infuse a bumbling wit with an incredibly cynical edge.
While it may be the beginning of the Disney export machine heading into high function, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is nevertheless a great crowd pleaser. If this is a sign of what’s to come for Lucasfilm, it’s a damn good one.