Capsule Summary (spoiler free):
Star Wars: Rogue One is a story told in the Star Wars Universe, and it fits in the timeline of the series. It does not follow the sort of storytelling that the rest of the Star Wars Saga does, which makes it a refreshing change. It ties in well with the rest of the movies, and is worthy of the Star Wars name. There are some liberties taken with CGI rendering, and most of them work well. Others, not so much.
Very Highly recommended. There are bits of violence, possibly making it unsuitable for young children.
I will likely see it again, in the near future.
Standard Review (contains plot spoilers):
The story takes place close to the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), is essentially an orphan. As a child, her parents are taken away by the Empire, and now, she’s in Imperial prisoner. She is liberated by people working with the Rebellion, because there are rumors that the Empire is building a super weapon, which her father helped build. She was raised by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), who has necessary information for the Rebellion, but is not working with them.
She is sent to draw him out, and to convince him to share information. The rebels put her in the care of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), who fly her to meet with Saw and convince him to reveal what he knows. Cassian is ordered to avoid Imperial entanglements, but it’s impossible when the planet they’re going to is full of their forces.
The story spirals outward, mostly out of control. Jyn, who’s lived alone for years, is convinced that her methods are the right ones, but she has to convince others of that, even though they don’t trust her.
The tension and urgency are palpable. Others are drawn into the story, as we, the audience, are. There comes a point where you realize, “Oh, it’s ON NOW!” and you are swept away into the story and can’t help but take it in, with all the implications they bring. I thought it was a clever manipulation, and to me, it works well.
Regardless of what you may read below, I really enjoyed the movie. The story was good, and I didn’t mind that the traditional Star Wars “text crawl” was absent from the beginning of the film. It’s certainly better than the big nostalgia throwback that was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which I also enjoyed, but Rogue One was much more unique.
Some comments about the CGI (BIG SPOILERS):
There is HEAVY use of CGI for some of the characters. For years now, when doing CGI animation of characters, they will record the voice actors as they’re reading the script, and map their expressions onto the characters they portray to give a better sense of the emotions involved. That’s been done with fantastical characters that couldn’t be done with makeup and/or prosthetics. This time, they map those expressions onto real people’s faces instead, who are unavailable due to death or age. The biggest and most important of these was for a reappearance of Grand Moff Tarkin, previously played by Peter Cushing, but now is a CGI character. He appears throughout the movie, and it mostly works, but I couldn’t help but be a little creeped out by it. Most people won’t be bothered by it. You can read up on the uncanny valley, which describes this phenomenon. They do it with several characters, and it’s passable, but after a while, it becomes gratuitous. There’s one such representation at the end that I just couldn’t accept. You’ll know it when you see it.