“Star Wars” Hits A Triple With “Rogue One”


If “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a home run, “Rogue One” is a triple.

(Can you tell I miss baseball?)

rIt has been said that with the rebirth of the franchise a new Star Wars film will be released every year for the rest of your life.

If so, “Rogue One” is one of them. This latest chapter (fourth in chronological order, eighth total films released) in the saga by “Godzilla” director Gareth Edwards occurs just prior to the first original film.

The empire and Darth Vader, still, again and forever voiced by James Earl Jones, is already testing the planet killing Death Star. “Rogue One” tells the story of how Princess Leia and the Rebel Alliance got the plans that helped them destroy it in “A New Hope.”

One of its reluctant developers, played by Mads Mikkelsen, placed a flaw in it for his daughter, played by Felicity Jones, to discover. And in “Rogue One” she is joined by a diverse group of scrappy fighters in her search for it and her effort to transmit it to the Alliance.

It’s a natural gap in the story and features characters in whom we become invested but many of whom cease to be at the film’s end.

The one or two Easter eggs connecting “Rogue One” to later events and characters feel a bit like Stan Lee’s routine appearance in every Marvel movie, bestowing little beyond credibility by association.

Otherwise “Rogue One” is a clean slate, all original storytelling and all new relationships.

How invested you become in it and them depends on your interest and expectations. After all some fans were enthused about George Lucas’ three prequels, now considered misfires, more concerned with digital scenarios than narrative ones. Too, the world he originally conceived was initially without people of color, an omission for which “The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One” more than compensate.

These characters, however, feel like archetypes behaving archetypically (from a screenplay by Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz – of “Bourne” and “American Pie” respectively.) It reminded me of “The Magnificent Seven” remake in which a group of misfits assemble save a town. In this case it’s the universe.

There are new and familiar weapons, ships, planets and droids, notably the acerbic and even cynical K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. There are battles galore, in space and in scenes of urban warfare.

And a galaxy of incidental widgets and details will make the faithful feel right at home. However, the result is without the feelings of family reunion and sense of consequence found in “The Force Awakens.”

In part, perhaps, because we know what happens next.

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