By Laurie Coker

Rating: A

For generations, fans have flocked to theaters to see the Star Wars films played out in impressive, visually magnificent sci-fi fashion. Nothing can surpass seeing something spectacular for the very first time – the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, the Great Pyramids and Star Wars. While perhaps linking a film franchise with things like Pompeii, Notre Dam or Mount Rushmore might seem ludicrous to some, it makes perfect sense to Star Wars aficionados. Rogue One, the latest in the Star Wars series and first stand-alone movie, attacks with force (pun intended) and demonstrates just how far we have come with computer generation imagery. Still, nothing will ever impress as much as what George Lucas did with scale models and his vivid imagination. From Lucasfilm and Disney Studios, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will disappoint a few, delight new generations and perhaps reignite the fire in diehard Lucas lovers.

The story, written for the screen by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy and directed by Gareth Edwards, follows an oddly matched band of heroes as they fight against the evil empire, pulling together to steal plans for the destructive Death Star. Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the scientist forced to create the weapon capable of annihilating entire planets. Galen embeds a self-destruct program of sorts into the weapon and through a hologram, sends Jyn to find it and get the plans to the rebel alliance. Jones may be slight, but she holds her own and can fight with the big boys. She keeps the pace with co-star Diego Luna as Captain Cassian Andor and the pair’s chemistry is strong.

Action sequences are phenomenal in Rogue One, revisiting elements of the other films, even tossing in a few cameos for good measure, but not so much as to keep this film from standing alone with flash and flare. The realms created by Edwards and his team far outshine Weitz and Gilroy’s storyline. Characters are introduced at a rapid pace, but still, we connect, care and root for them and their desires to make their world a better place.

CGI version of one character, in particular, distracts –cameras focus on his face for far too long. Edwards might have pulled away more or shot from varied angles to detract from the obvious animation. Filmmakers have come a long way in sci-fi imagery, and become smarter with how they blend real with created, be we are a step away from perfection. Lucasfilm Ltd. generated an exceptionally captivating movie experience with Rogue One. Of course, the special effects are superb and the cinematography by Greig Fraser is beyond spectacular. While 3D doesn’t seem wholly necessary, the IMAX experience is well worth the ticket price.

Rogue one follows suite with the banter and humor we expect from Star Wars films. As usual, many of the best chuckles come from one of the droids, this time K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Cassian’s Imperial enforcer – droll and while the bot is relatively expressionless, Tudyk brings wonderful wit and personality in the same way C-3PO and R2D2 do. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might not connect directly to the others, but it does add brilliantly to the Star Wars family of films. It will entertain a new generation of views and thrill old fans. I am placing an A in my grade book.

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