Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen. Directed by Gareth Edwards.
THE Star Wars universe has a huge canon of mythology that has never been seen on film, but with Rogue One, fans and newcomers have the delight of seeing the movie universe expand.
Rogue One ties in brilliantly with the very first film, now known as Episode IV: A New Hope, while standing solidly on its own.
The characters are all new and fresh, aside from the obligatory appearance of Darth Vader, and a quite remarkable CGI revival of the late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, the man who ultimately controls the Death Star.
Also, you need to wait right till the end to see another surprise appearance by an old face.
Rogue One is the till-now untold story of an unlikely band of heroes who go on a desperate mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, a vast artificial moon that is able to travel through hyperspace and with a weapon capable of destroying an entire planet.
The Galactic Empire assembled the brightest scientists to work on the project, and not all of them willingly. Watching this movie reminded me again how the Empire has so many shades of Nazi Germany, from its totalitarian authority and ambitions of conquest and control, to the uniforms of its officers and its stormtrooper soldiers.
One of the unwilling Death Star scientists is Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), whose recruitment comes at the cost of his wife’s life and being separated from his young daughter Jyn, who is rescued by a rebel leader called Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
We only see Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) again when she is a young woman, a prisoner in an Empire work camp. She is freed, at first against her will, by rebel forces who know she is Galen’s daughter and can serve as an intermediary with the now-outcast Gerrera, who has access to information the Rebel Alliance needs.
It entails a visit to Jedha, the legendary city of the now-extinct Jedi Knights. Accompanying her on the mission is rebel captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), whose snarky comments recall the wit of C-3PO.
Under the Empire’s control and being mined of its energy crystals, Jedha is a dangerous place and the heroes are caught between stormtroopers and guerrillas.
But they are able to escape with their prize – a defecting Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) – and pick up two allies on the way, a blind mystic Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and his friend Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang).
Convincing the Rebel Alliance of the necessity of travelling to the Empire’s data bank on Scarif to steal the plans is another matter, however, and the motley crew go on their own unapproved mission which has a remote chance of success.
It’s glorious swashbuckling sci-fi action that will thrill viewers of all ages.