‘A Star Wars Story’ for sure, but not your typical Star Wars story.
Right from the get-go, this is more ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ than ‘A New Hope’ or ‘Return of the Jedi’.
Yes, the story is heroic, but not all heroes live to see the victory parade. Rogue One shows the darker side of the Rebellion, and touches on some of the desperate measures the Rebels undertook to overcome the Galactic Empire. There is much grey in this galaxy.
Without too many spoilers, this movie ties together quite a bit, and answers many unspoken questions from A New Hope. Far from a small footnote in Galactic history briefly mentioned way back in 1977, the events leading up to the Rebel capture of the Death Star plans were actually a separate adventure of their own, quite deserving their own movie.
Cameos galore, some CGI, some in the…er…flesh.
Some people have lamented the use of CGI as fake and cartoony. I didn’t have a problem with it, even though I knew it was coming. There were even a couple of live actors I thought were less ‘believable’ than some of the CGI scenes.
A few characters from the prequel trilogy survive into Rogue One, and many from A New Hope are also present as the Rebel Alliance lays the ground work by discovering the existence of the Death Star and how one of their members has a plan. The overlap allows for several conversations that tie into and support the movies that follow.
Although we don’t see Grand Admiral Thrawn (sorry, sort of spoiler), we do see the first live appearance of the white Imperial uniform (which sparked a frenzy that he ‘would’ be the big villain), so perhaps a foreshadow of things to come in other movies?
A bridge too far…?
In a word… Nope. I quite enjoyed Rogue One. My only lament was how many heroes had rather final endings. The director seemed quite happy to make a point of how many of these characters were not going to make it to the parade at the end of A New Hope. More than a few strong characters could have produced or contributed to other stories beyond Rogue One. Ah well, perhaps they will inspire some fan fiction down the road.
There are several scenes where the all important plans are ‘just barely’ passed on to the next person in a chain that is consumed link by link by the Imperial efforts to stop them. Even though any Star Wars fan knows that they ‘do’ succeed, the ‘how’ and ‘who’ is always in doubt until the final scene.
All in all I’m going to go out on a limb here and claim that Rogue One is likely a better prequel than the entire ‘prequel trilogy’, but that’s me.