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When Disney bought Lucasfilm, I was a bit leery as to the direction the franchise was going to head in as a story.  Disney is driven by its excellence in Marketing and the firm’s ability to cross sell it’s products.   While the Marvel Cinematic Universe was built, the excellence in Disney’s ability to take a bit of a hands off approach gave me hope.    This was all a Star Wars junkie could want, especially after the blandness and wooden prequels were released.

While watching announcements about “mining the Star Wars Universe for stories”, I thought we were going to a sub par product.  “Mining” sounded like a money grab.  Something Disney was doing to turn a profit on their investment.   Then three things happened; George Lucas was announced to have no direct involvement in the future story building attempts, Gareth Edwards was hired to direct Rogue One, and The Force Awakens was released and it was a huge success.

In order to understand how huge the Gareth Edwards hiring was at the time, there is a story to tell.  Edwards is a huge Star Wars fanboy.  He estimates that he has seen Star Wars: A New Hope at lease 300 times.   For his 30th birthday, Edwards made the trek to Tunisia to spend the night in the same sand home that Luke Skywalker was shown in during the original Star Wars film.   That’s the type of director Edwards is and how much he loves Star Wars.

I will not spoil any part of the movie.  Rather, I will comment on the acting, directing, and story.  This movie is loaded with tons of cameos and they are terrific.   Felicity Jones is really good as heroine Jyn Erso.   She has just the right amount of earnest believability and connection to the rebel alliance.    Erso is raised to be a tough badass and boy can she bring the pain.  An Oscar nominated actress,  Jones is just wonderful and really connects with the audience.

But my main rule is to always base your review of a movie on how good the bad guys of the movies.  The two main baddies in the film are Darth Vader and Director Orson Krennic, head of the Imperial Weapons Program.   Krennic is played by Ben Mendelsohn.  He is excellent and brings just the right balance of deviousness and suck up weasel ambition to the role.  He could have overplayed this role, but really works hard to make it in the new Empire.

Edwards really gets the movie going in the second half, the first hour being used as a methodically paced setup and introduction of characters.  His eye for shot selection and setup of the visual effects is just stunning.  This is the best looking and most action packed Star Wars film to date.  He also is brilliant in the use of cameos and more than once I would audibly go “Wow, thats ******”.   As a total fanboy, this just made the experience extra special to me.

Finally, the story.   Based off an idea from the opening crawl of Star Wars:  A New Hope, Rogue One really gets the story right.   Nothing is wasted and after 30 years some things are explained and it causes your to think – “Huh, so thats why”.   It helps to close more than one story gap from the New Hope.   I cant divulge anymore, but know that you will not be dissappointed.

Overall, a remarkable achievement in film.

4 Stars – A Hitting a Mark recommendation.