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Written by Tim Estiloz

★★

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a magnificently entertaining, fast paced and often uniquely spectacular film that almost makes one forget another Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens”, recently opened to slightly more fanfare and anticipation. Indeed, for my money, “Rogue One” not only far surpasses “The Force Awakens” for sheer originality and entertainment value; but also, it is the prequel film we should have gotten years ago instead of that arguably abysmal “Episode One” trilogy that seared the moronic Jar Jar Binks into our collective memory.

“Rogue One” is indeed the perfect prequel to the original Star Wars film, focusing on events leading up the literal opening moments of George Lucas’ groundbreaking 1977 film. This film is the perfect connective narrative that explains much of what leads up to the eventual Rebel destruction of the infamous Death Star and how it was accomplished.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the “rough around the edges” daughter of the scientist who is creating the Death Star for the evil galactic Empire. She is strongly coerced by the Rebel Alliance leadership to find a way to destroy the immense planet killer that is nearing completion under her father’s guidance. Joining Jyn is a crew of rag tag characters that include a brave Rebel soldier, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his hysterically sarcastic strategy droid K-2SO, who practically steals every scene he’s in from the humans with his dry wit and cutting humor. 

Jyn and Cassian are also joined by a crew that includes a blind Jedi-like master with amazing martial arts skills, his deadly warrior friend and a pilot who’s defected to the Rebel Alliance. Also figuring into the intrigue is Saw Guerra (Forest Whitaker) who raised Jyn after her father’s defection and is a rebel too dangerously rebellious even for the official Rebel Alliance.

“Rogue One” has been often billed as a separate stand alone story; but instead, it is the perfect companion piece to the original Star Wars film. It contains enough visual and narrative nods to the other films to please the long time fans; yet, it also weaves a compellingly unique and complex story that starts slowly and builds to a truly blockbuster style finale. Several familiar faces crucial to the first Star Wars film appear; including of course, Darth Vader in all his imposing evil glory.

This is also a Star Wars film that has its fair share of violent action and tonal darkness. The climatic battle sequences on the beach are reminiscent of World War II carnage in the Pacific and strains of the films, “The Dirty Dozen”, “Platoon” and “Seven Samurai” can be seen in the film’s narrative as the team works to fulfill its critical, yet seemingly impossible, mission. Indeed, without the mission depicted in “Rogue One”, there would be no original Star Wars story to follow.

Felicity Jones is terrific as the heroine of “Rogue One”. Her character’s intensity, strength and focus makes this film a joy to watch. Diego Luna is a capable foil for her conflicted Jyn Erso and their closing scenes, as with other key characters in the film, evoke bittersweet audience emotions that are somewhat surprising in this usually overall upbeat franchise. 

“Rogue One” is a solid and entertaining feast of wonderful new characters, a truly fresh and unpredictable storyline and some genuinely amazing special effects that beg to be seen on an IMAX screen if possible.

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