Straight from the off the audience is made aware that this is Star Wars but not as we know it, all the main protagonists are new to the space saga and to really drive home the message the opening scrawl is missing from the starry backdrop. In all honesty this is a blessing, a breath of fresh air. The Force Awakens was hampered by the rehashing of a story already told and the characters felt shoehorned in. Not here; here we have bold, bright and well rounded roles. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna might share a pinch of the style and substance of Leia and Han but only at first glance. Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor are troubled souls and thankfully they are allowed to show it, after all actions speak louder than words. Their horrifying backstory is trotted out to explain the situation and it captivates as much it informs, it helps that the bit roles are filled by such acting luminaries as Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker.
Not all the selections are as inspired though – While Alan Tudyk does a commendable job as K-2SO, the droid brings far too much humour to the proceedings. The cameos, both visual and spoken, sprinkled throughout should have sufficed for this but coupled with the Firefly actors performance they lower the tone somewhat. This is Rogue One’s biggest weakness, as throughout the hopelessness that the Rebels suffer is glossed over with a joke or moment of levity. After all this is a grown up film with the Rebellion really being shown for what it is, a desperate force. Guerrilla warfare is in full operation as the death toll rises and the action escalates to an spectacular and beautifully shot finale. This is not the only flaw to be found as the CGI used to make Guy Henry’s Grand Moff Tarkin resemble Peter Cushing makes him look like melted wax and the inclusion of some of the alien races seems rather forced, a case of “It’s Star Wars, so lets have some random aliens in it” These shortcomings can all be forgiven though as the pro’s far outweigh the cons; John Williams’s cracking score transporting you to a galaxy far, far away, homages to A New Hope that only true fans will spot, Vader showing why he is rightly feared, cinematography that will make your jaw drop and an end the movie so richly deserves.
This is everything Episode Seven wasn’t; a climatic finish, a brilliantly directed ground assault that captures the attention and quickens the pulse, paired with a space battle that actually lasts longer than a blink of an eye. And not an Ewok or Gungan in sight…
Four out of five.