‘Star Wars’ fans will be very happy with Disney’s first spin-off movie ‘Rogue One’

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Felicity Jones and Diego Luna star in ‘Rogue One.’ Disney/Lucasfilm

The INSIDER Summary:

• “Rogue One” is a great “Star Wars” movie.
• It ties nicely into “Episode IV — A New Hope.”

• It follows Jyn Erso (and her team) on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star.

• The film is the darkest “Star Wars” movie to date.
• Still, it won’t take a genius to see where the plot of the film is heading. 

For those worried if Disney could make a successful spin-off movie outside the main “Star Wars” saga, don’t be. “Rogue One” is a genuinely satisfying “Star Wars” movie with a great ending that ties nicely into “Episode IV — A New Hope.”

The film itself is a bit of a slow build, but “Rogue One” kicks it into hyperdrive a little over halfway through and it never really slows down after that. In fact, it continuously manages to get better as the movie progresses.

It may even make you a bit emotional. 

Taking place directly before Geroge Lucas’ original “Star Wars,” “Rogue One” follows a ragtag group as they set off on an unapproved mission to steal plans for the Empire’s new secret weapon, the Death Star. 

Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the fierce and fiery daughter of an imperial scientist (Mads Mikkelsen) who’s been on her own since her father was whisked away against his will to work on the Death Star. After Rey stole the show in “The Force Awakens,” Jyn’s an action figure girls will want to own. She’s a no-frills, tough-as-nails rebel who’s willing to risk it all for a cause she believes is worth fighting for. 

She’s joined by several others, including assassin Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), former Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Han Solo-type without the wise-cracking remarks. That’s what his bot K2-SO is for.

As others have indicated, the real breakouts of the film are the sassy, smart-aleck imperial droid K2-SO, masterfully played by Alan Tudyk, and Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) a blind warrior monk who believes deeply in the force. Both bring a lot of laughter to the film, but it was K2 who received the biggest laughs during our screening for his witty banter and quirky disposition  — think C-3P0, but more confident and able-bodied.

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K2-SO will have you laughing several times throughout the film. Disney/Lucasfilm
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Donnie Yen gets in a few jokes too as Chirrut. Disney/Lucasfilm

If you’re a fan of the “Star Wars” video game “Knights of the Old Republic” (KOTOR), my “Star Wars”-loving brother, who accompanied me to the screening, pointed out that K2 feels like a loose adaptation of KOTOR assassin droid HK-47 who has a similarly smart mouth. 

Overall, the Rogue squadron isn’t as memorable as Disney’s rebellious “Guardians of the Galaxy” team, but you’ll love watching them work together to take down the film’s antagonist, Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), one of the men in charge of the Death Star project.

No, Vader isn’t the main villain, but he doesn’t need to be. Mendelsohn delivers a great performance as a ladder-climbing member of the Empire with high aspirations. He’s just a little too wrapped up in those aspirations.

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Together, Jyn and Andor make a good team, but mostly in the confines of their own scenes together. Disney/Lucasfilm
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For those worried the film will only deliver minimal amounts of Vader just to draw fans in, the scenes with him are the highlights of the movie.

One Darth Vader sequence will have fans geeking out long after the movie’s out. Similar to that aeroplane scene in “Civil War” earlier this summer, this is a scene you’ll want to go back, rewind, and watch on loop. It’s one of the best Vader scenes in any “Star Wars” movie.

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This isn’t the Vader scene I’m talking about. You’ll know it when you see it. Disney/Lucasfilm

And yes, there will be some blasts from the past in the movie. You’ll have to wait to see those for yourself.

At the heart of “Rogue One” is a story about family and tragedy, a common thread which links the new film to its predecessors. If you have any sort of “Star Wars” knowledge whatsoever, it won’t take a genius to see where the plot of the film is heading. 

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To all the ‘Hannibal’ fans, Mads Mikkelsen may actually break your heart. Disney/Lucasfilm

“Star Wars” purists may grumble over a few little things. My brother let out a small cry of surprise when no opening scroll appeared on the screen and the film simply started rolling after a quick look at the Lucasfilm logo and the familiar “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away …” I imagine other big fans may be puzzled over that as well.

And much like “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One” leans into the nostalgia factor pretty heavy. 

Many a moment will have you nerding out with fellow fans over every tiny “Star Wars” reference. And while you’ll definitely be cruising along on an X-wing back to your childhood, by the end of the film, it starts to feel like the movie may be going in on the nostalgia train a little too hard.

There are a few unnecessary cameos or callbacks to the original series that felt too orchestrated. We get it, it’s a “Star Wars” movie  — we don’t need to be reminded of familiar catchphrases every single movie. (At one point, a newer character randomly says “It’s a trap!” but no one in our theatre chuckled if that was supposed to be a nod to the iconic Admiral Ackbar phrase.) Disney’s planning to make a lot of “Star Wars” movies. We’ll have one every year for the next several years and beyond for the foreseeable future. Save some of these quips so they don’t get stale.

A few moments in the film also feel a bit chaotic. Early on, the story jumps from location to location to location. For the casual viewer, it didn’t seem necessary, especially since the film was only spending a few moments in each place. If anything, it felt more taxing to keep up with the many new worlds being introduced when we never came back to most of them.

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‘Rogue One’ has a lot of sprawling landscapes to indulge in. Disney/Lucasfilm

One character’s return — which some have already guessed at online after a trailer showed his backside — relies so much on CG that it becomes a bit distracting whenever he’s on screen. And Forest Whitaker’s brief role as Saw Gerrera in the film was a bit unnecessary other than to move the story along.  

I don’t expect “Rogue One” to make as much money as “The Force Awakens.” There are the obvious reasons — it’s not part of a franchise and it doesn’t boast a main cast of recognisable “Star Wars” characters apart from a few surprise cameos.

More importantly, this is definitely the darkest “Star Wars” movie to date. It doesn’t hold back, and that’s a good thing. The result is a guerrilla warfare story with several big action sequences spread over multiple terrains. Its bleak depiction of war is one of the reasons I think “Star Wars” fans will enjoy it so much. It doesn’t give you a tongue-and-cheek Disney-fied idea of war and the concept of sacrifice. Because of that, it won’t appeal to all audiences like “The Force Awakens.”

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You never really see blood in ‘Rogue One,’ but it is riddled with explosions and death. Disney/Lucasfilm

“Rogue One” isn’t a movie I would recommend bringing young children to see without having some tough conversations afterwards. Whereas the franchise saga films were made for family outings, “Rogue One” feels like it was made for older fans of the series. Perhaps that’s the plan with some of the subsequent standalone “Star Wars” films.

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The Deathtroopers mean business in ‘Rogue One.’ Disney/Lucasfilm

For those with certain expectations heading into “Rogue One,” the film should satisfy and exceed most of them. If you feel like you know how the movie should play out since “Rogue One” is a prequel to “A New Hope,” I think you’ll be genuinely pleased with how it all comes together. 

If you stay during the credits, there’s no bonus scene afterwards, but it is nice to stay around for Michael Giacchino’s score.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is in theatres December 16 with early showings Thursday evening. Check out the trailer below:

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