Last night was a very special night. Why was it so special? Because I got to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theaters... The day before the film's official release (it was officially released yesterday as of this writing). Not sure WHY I am making a big deal out of it, but I'm doing it anyway.
So what exactly is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? It's a stand-alone Star Wars movie that serves as a prequel to the original movie in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: A New Hope. However, if you have any experience with Star Wars, you know that this franchise and prequels DO NOT mix. But don't worry. Rogue One is vastly superior to the admittedly lackluster Prequel Trilogy (Star Wars I-III). However, a lot of this review will contain massive spoilers for the franchise (not the movie itself, but the sheer fact this is a prequel means it will automatically spoil the previous movies in case you somehow haven't watched them), so here's something I haven't done in a while. A Spoiler Alert warning gallery!
So if you are reading past these funny Spoiler Alert images I found via Google, I will assume you either have seen Rogue One already (in which case, why are you reading the review? I'm here to share my two cents on a movie, not convert people en masse to perfectly match my opinion)or you simply don't care. It is a prequel after all. FOREGONE CONCLUSIONS FOR THE WIN!!! Oh, and if you want to read the review but not get spoiled, I will include a TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) recap spoiler free at the bottom of the post.
Rogue One is a film that explains in very nice detail one little thing that some people (including me) never gave much thought about when A New Hope released. How exactly did the Rebel Alliance get the Death Star plans containing the information needed to destroy the Death Star in the first place? Well you can thank a squad of brave Rebels that are known as, you guessed it, Rogue One.
Now something I will let you know right now about Rogue One. This is the most unique Star Wars movie ever. Why do I say this? For starters, they didn't do the opening crawl that literally everything related to Star Wars does at the beginning. It just goes "In a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." and then BAM! movie starts. No opening crawl. No recap. No nothing! It just gets right down to business!
But in all seriousness, Rogue One really stands out among the franchise. It's much darker, and more mature (mature as in overall tone, not gore/vulgarity/profanity!). Don't get me wrong. This is still a family friendly movie... Unless your child can't handle good guys dying or the rather intense action sequences, Because this film as both of these IN SPADES. Additionally, unlike the rest of the franchise, the Rebel Alliance isn't portrayed as squeaky clean saviors and heroes. Here, they do some morally questionable things because despite the fact that the whole franchise has the word "Wars" in the name, Rogue One is easily the most war-like movie in the franchise.
K2-SO is the best character in the whole movie.
(In my opinion)
Also, if you don't like sad endings, then I'll let you know right now that Rogue One has perhaps the saddest ending in the entire franchise. You thought Kylo Ren stabbing Han Solo was sad? Try basically the entire second half of the final climatic battle.
On a lighter note, this movie is FILLED with call-backs (call-forwards?) to the previous Star Wars movies. Like a surprise appearance from C-3P0 and R2-D2. Speaking of which, did you know that C-3P0 and R2-D2 are the only Star Wars characters to appear in every movie in the entire franchise?
Back on track. as for the actual story, it was mostly good! Rogue One is a little bit slower-paced than the other movies (a side effect of not having the iconic opening crawl like the rest of the franchise!?) but starts to pick up steam once the heroes reach a desert planet called Jedha.
As for acting. It was really good. Everyone did a good job bringing their characters to life, from the snarky droid K2-SO, to the lovable duo of Chirrut (a blind monk who is a strong believer of the Force) and Baze (a freelance mercenary who's an old friend of Chirrut but refuses to believe in the Force for basically three-quarters of the movie), to the main villain of this movie, Director Krennik (who fancies himself one of the most important members of the Empire but is overshadowed by Grand Moff Tarkin and, later, Darth Vader).
Oh yeah, Darth Vader is in this movie! Which (not counting the brief glimpse of his burnt mask that we see in Star Wars: The Force Awakens) marks his first appearance on the big screen in 9+ years. And boy oh boy, Darth Vader is quite the show stealer. He has a grand total of three scenes in the entire movie, each about 2 minutes long each. But he spends every second reminding the universe why Darth Vader is the best villain in history. Especially towards the end, where he SPOILER ALERT! butchers a dozen Rebel soldiers single-handedly in a display of both Force powers and Lightsaber skills that is both awesome to watch and helps audiences to remember that Darth Vader is basically the Grim Reaper of Star Wars. Whenever Darth Vader shows up, somebody is going to die.
But if you are going to watch this movie for Darth Vader, don't. Now hear me out. Darth Vader is not a bad character (the previous paragraph had me praising him for crying out loud!) but the thing is, if Darth Vader wasn't in the movie, the only thing that would change is who gets to command the Death Star upon it's completion. Darth Vader in this movie is more like the icing on the cake.
As for visuals and music, Rogue One has some very nice graphics. The set-pieces looked good, the space-ship dogfights are amazing as per usual. Also, interestingly enough, they brought back characters from Star Wars: A New Hope even though the actors that portrayed those characters are either much older now or just straight up deceased. So how do they fix that problem? With CGI lookalikes! Which leads to the biggest argument about this movie. Are the CGI characters good or is the CGI painfully obvious? Some say the former while others say the latter. I myself lean more towards the CGI characters are good because I legitimately didn't know the actor who played Grand Moff Tarkin was dead long before this movie was in development but the Tarkin in this movie not only sounds just like the original, but looks exactly the same, at least in my eyes. Had I not known that fact, I would have assumed that was the actual actor and not a CGI stand-in.
As for music... IT'S FLIPPING STAR WARS WE'RE TALKING ABOUT!!! Of course the music is awesome. The entire OST is really, really good, but then again, there's an unspoken rule that every Star Wars movie must have good music even if said movie is terrible in terms of everything else.
TL;DR I give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a 9/10 because it's great at almost everything, but it's really slow-paced in the beginning. But aside from that, it's a strong stand-alone movie with lovable characters, great acting, an amazing soundtrack as per usual, and good visual effects. I consider this to be the most unique Star Wars movie and it definitely stands out the most.