|Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.|
The picture, directed by Gareth Edwards ("Monsters" and the uneven "Godzilla" remake from a years ago), is not only a space opera, as these films tend to get labeled, but also an impossible mission movie of the type that were popular in the 1960s - "The Dirty Dozen" and "The Guns of Navarone," for instance - in which a rag-tag group of heroes band together to pull off, well, you know.
As this film opens, a man hiding out on a distant planet named Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is discovered by representatives of the nefarious Empire, most notably one Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), who want him to help build the Death Star, for which he originally created plans before gaining a conscience. His wife is killed after trying to intervene and he is taken hostage. His young daughter flees and is raised (offscreen) by a soldier known as Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
Once she has grown, the girl, named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), is a two-bit criminal who finds herself sucked into the battle between the Rebels and the Empire due to the fact that she's Galen's daughter. Plus, the Rebel leaders believe she might be able to find out from her father how to dismantle the Death Star and, as it turns out, Galen has purposefully created a glitch in the massive weapon system that the Rebels can exploit.
But when her pleas to sneak beyond enemy territory to steal the Death Star plans fall on the deaf ears of Rebel leaders, she enlists the help of a robot (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a blind Jedi (Donnie Yen), that Jedi's pal (Jiang Wen), a former Empire pilot (Riz Ahmed) who fled to join the resistance and a captain (Diego Luna) who performs assassin's work for the rebellion. The group steal a ship, fly to the planet where the plans - which fans of the original "Star Wars" picture know will end up in the hands of Princess Leia, who passes them along to Obi Wan Kenobi - are being kept with the aim of stealing them.
"Rogue One" does a pretty decent job of setting up all of these characters in its first half, but a bang-up job of the mission itself, which takes up the film's second half and includes a few terrific space battles and an exciting heist attempt on the ground. And while previous "Star Wars" movies were mostly reluctant to kill off leading characters - other than one instance in the first film and a now very famous second instance in last year's "The Force Awakens" - "Rogue One" bumps them off left and right - which makes sense, considering this is, after all, a film about a near-impossible feat.
So, yeah, the film is pretty fun and certainly of higher caliber than most of this year's other blockbuster extravaganzas. There's also a cameo or two by iconic characters from the franchise. The series remains the gold standard of big budget adventure movies and this entry will likely tide over "Star Wars" fans until the second entry in the new trilogy drops next year.