Well, it is here: Another Star Wars movie. We fans shall be treated to approximately one every year until the apocalypse. I am sure there will be good ones and bad ones. This is not one of them. I promised a spoiler-free review and so this shall be. I will be posting a spoiler-filled review soon as well, but don't worry, you will be fine just reading this one. Just so you know, I will be assuming people have seen the trailers. If you have not and want to go in blind, then this is not for you. For those of you that are really worried, simply stop reading and go see the movie, nothing I say here should detract anyone from doing so, nor will it necessarily make it any more enjoyable. The movie was great.
This is our first look at an anthology film in the Star Wars universe, ie not really part of the saga. There is an overarching storyline for Star Wars that we have seen so far, but this is the first movie that breaks from that mold...kind of. Although this is said to be a stand alone movie, the title alone tells you that it connects with the original trilogy. What we have is a prequel to A New Hope, which is the 4th overall episode of the Star Wars saga. I believe the director has publicly said that this movie's plot is included in the opening crawl for A New Hope, and I believe he succeeded, and a lot more.
Rogue One treads the line very well. There is plenty of fan service and references of course, but on the whole it succeeds in telling its own story, AND pointing "back" to the original movies, making even those movies better. THATS'S what a good prequel can do. If you can watch the originals and they have more meaning and umph because of a prequel, then I think it did it's job.
Comparing Rogue One to the originals and trying to make claims that it is better than any of the other movies doesn't feel right to me after watching the movie. Maybe you will see what I mean, but this movie feels like a short TV episode or a bonus feature that gives background to the movie (A New Hope) or something. I mean that in the most positive way though. The movie's pacing feels a little bit bizarre but I can't quite put my finger on it. It ends pretty abruptly as well, almost feeling forced, although it succeeds in everything the story was attempting so...I dunno, lol.
The visuals were also very well done in the movie. Space and ground battles never looked better. The lasers and dogfights were epic and exhilarating, and felt a lot like the original movies, which is a good thing. The ground battles remind me of the best parts of the Battle of Hoth, mixed with Star Wars scenarios that have up until now been only available to see in a video game. There were definitely some major visual/technical issues I have with the movie, and that will be more covered in the spoiler review, but most of it was good enough that it didn't ruin anything. Mainly it was some CGI that I don't think will stand the test of time (like a lot of CGI). The set pieces, costumes, and all of the new additions in regards to ships and technology were all expertly done. There is a bit of the same issue that the prequel trilogy had in that the technology in some cases seemed more advanced than the OT, but it wasn't nearly as bad.
I loved the aliens that were included, and the diversity in general has to be commended. They managed to have a more diverse cast than most movies in general, but I never felt like it was political or forced (sorry, racists). Instead, it was beautifully natural and it looked and felt like a galaxy that was populated by real people. That is the only thing that makes this movie take away from the original trilogy. If you go back and watch them, you will be wondering where all the non-white and non-male people in the galaxy went. I want to see a special edition that at least adds some *ahem* color to the background at the very least, or else the change will be quite jarring.
Some of the changes made to set this apart from the saga also ended up being a little distracting for me. Not including the classic Star Wars crawl for example threw me off. I was expecting it, as the director made it public a while ago, but I did miss it. There was little text that popped up at the bottom of the screen that told you where you were, which felt out of place. It's something that's used in most movies, just not Star Wars. And as I said the soundtrack felt a little off at times. These were little things, but they were enough to make me forget that I was watching Star Wars at times.
There is not much more I can say without spoiling stuff, and there is stuff to be spoiled. There are easter eggs like in all the movies and I look forward to discovering them with you.
To make a long review short: Rogue One is a great movie. Go see it.
-Makes the OT better
-Soundtrack (personal preference)
-Changes made to set it apart from the saga sets it apart a little too much