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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Nominated for Best Sound Mixing at the 89th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 89th Annual Academy Awards

The geek pleasure was palpable for me this time. I can’t say the same for last year. Of course, by last year I’m referring to 2015’s long-awaited “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. “Nostalgia porn”, I called it. “Remake of the first one”, I said. I did enjoy “The Force Awakens”, but I felt it seriously faltered in the 2nd half. Not fatally, just noticeably. And now, being that we live in a world with a “Star Wars” film every year, I felt we all deserved better. Well…here it is. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is better. And much more exciting too. Sure there’s nostalgia porn here, as well–but it doesn’t rely on it. The world it creates is its own, and its characters are mostly new, diverse, and meaningful. That being said, “Rogue One” also serves up the greatest Darth Vader action scene ever. I ate up every glorious second of it. Wow.

This is a “Star Wars” prequel, set immediately before “A New Hope” (oh, how I hate to call the 1977 film that). The Death Star is present, we briefly witness lots of familiar characters throughout, plus there’s the already legendary digital return of a character that was played by Peter Cushing in 1977. And Grand Moff Tarkin is still played by Peter Cushing, even though he died in 1994. It’s an almost seamless special effect, with actor Guy Henry standing in, with Mr. Cushing’s likeness superimposed. There’s one other significant recreation by the end of the film too, using the same technique. But it’s the new characters that truly impress. Felicity Jones is Jyn Erso. Diego Luna is Cassian Andor. Donnie Yen is Chirrut Imwe. Riz Ahmed is Bodhi Rook. Forest Whitaker is Saw Gerrera. It’s a marvelously eclectic cast representing various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In other words…it’s like life really is.

I don’t want to give a plot description for a “Star Wars” franchise release, because the vast majority of moviegoers don’t want to read any of that. They just want to experience it BIG and LOUD. I also don’t want to harp on the racial diversity too much, because that’s a powder keg if you go too far. I’m just so pleased that it is what it is. And the last 40 minutes of “Rogue One” is spectacular. And earned. Resonant. I loved the debut feature of Gareth Edwards called “Monsters”. That film made my Top Ten in 2010, and had me all pumped up for his “Godzilla” reboot in 2014. I had mixed feelings about that sophomore effort, but I admired a good deal of it. But “Rogue One” exhibits the powers that I sensed in Mr. Edwards upon that impressive debut. THIS is the “Star Wars” movie that I was hoping for roughly a year ago. It’s the best since “Empire”. Imagine that. They did it. What a thrill it is!

Grade:  A-

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