Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, B
Rated PG-13, 133 minutes
One character in the entertaining new "Star Wars" spinoff "Rogue One" repeats, "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me." The cinematic force is with Disney (who has been a force at the box-office this year). A standalone prequel to the original "Star Wars," (and sequel to 2005's "Revenge of the Sith") this is set in the same universe and helps lay some important groundwork for those films. Enjoyable, escapist fun, "Rogue One" is smart and funny and has enough thrilling moments to balance out some of the cheesier ones; it's not as epic or grand as last year's "The Force Awakens," but then it doesn't need to be.
In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Rebel officer Ando (Diego Luna), band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction. Along with them is a reprogrammed droid K-2S0 (voiced by Alan Tudyk), Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind warrior who believes in the Force, and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a former Imperial pilot who has defected to the Rebellion.
Directed by Gareth Edwards, who directed the 2014 "Godzilla" reboot on a script from Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, the familiar "Rogue One" is an entertaining, serviceable entry in the "Star Wars" catalog, filled with some first-rate visuals and action-sequences. Last year's "Force Awakens" gave the "Star Wars" franchise a grittier, more realistic look, and "Rogue One" continues that look, and has enough to please die-hard "Star Wars" fans and lesser enthusiasts - that would be me - who enjoy an energetic yarn (character names and locations - which is like another language for "Star Wars" fans - fly over my head faster than any space ship).
By this point, there's not too much more insight that "Rogue One" can add to the "Star Wars" realm, but it has enough fun moments and characters that will keep you engaged. If you're a fan of the animated "Star Wars: Clone Wars," watch for Oscar-winner as Saw Gerrera in the first act, a hammy addition that adds little to the spectacle outside of seeing the actor in heavy makeup and costume.
Luna and Jones are a solid pairing, and as the evil Imperial office Krennic, recent Emmy-winner Ben Mendelsohn has some memorable moments tormenting Jyn's father, well-played by Danish-actor Mads Mikkelsen, of "Hannibal" fame and who recently appeared in Marvel's "Doctor Strange." Yes, even Darth Vader (along with that iconic voice James Earl Jones), makes a brief appearance, as does "Star Wars" vets C3PO and R2D2, played by Antony Daniels and Jimmy Vee here.
Also a couple of notes for "Star Wars" fans, John Williams doesn't do the music here (veteran composer Michael Giacchino is a solid addition) and the iconic scroll doesn't open the film, but those are minor details that don't detract from the film. "Rogue One" is a familiar yet thrilling "Star Wars" addition, and should be a nice fill-in until the next "Star Wars" film next year.