Because stunning cinematography and graphics are a given these days, I look to the characters to judge a film's success. A good movie shouldn't need a character being an idiot to drive the plot. *cough*Fantastic Beasts*cough* Plus, let's face it, most of us went into this movie knowing what it's about and how it ends.
Rogue One delivers a solid cast -- Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a steely, competent lead who is ably supported by an equally determined Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the terrific duo of the blind Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and well-armed Baze (Wen Jiang). Imperial defector Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) proves his worth to the rebellion to the very end, and the droid K-2SO delivers plenty of one-liners while being exceedingly useful. Meanwhile, the main villain, Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), is appropriately unlikeable and is a legitimate threat, since he's determined to see his superweapon perform to its potential and is backed by the Empire despite the setbacks to the Death Star project. Darth Vader also makes a welcome appearance.
In addition, character reactions are realistic -- for example, in the middle of a firefight, one person doesn't have the luxury of saying a proper goodbye to a long-lost loved one, and instead is rushed to safety. This event marks a turning point in the story, as Jyn pleads her case to the Rebel Alliance and gets a small group of volunteers to infiltrate the Imperial archives base where the plans are stored. This third act was particularly enjoyable in its high tension and well-choreographed action sequences, which had me so fixated that I refused the clarion call of my bladder and stayed firmly in my seat until the bitter, bitter end. While this part of the movie had plenty of last-minute, nigh-impossible saves, the Rogue One team's victory is Pyrrhic.
The ending is particularly wrenching because of Carrie Fisher's recent passing. RIP, Princess Leia. You rocked.
- Grand Moff Tarkin is a distractingly CGI character because Peter Cushing died in 1994. I think they should have recast instead.
- I thought this was scored by John Williams until I saw the credits. Giacchino is a busy man!
- It would have been nice to spend a little more time with Jyn, Galen, and Lyra
- Why is Alicia Vikander the new Lara Croft when Felicity Jones has showed us her goddess-like upper body strength via multiple climbing scenes?
- Awesome job cutting in the flying scenes from the original!
TL;DR: With all its action, drama, and sacrifice, Rogue One puts the "war" in Star Wars.
This post brought to you by Blue Ribbon BBQ!