Been a while since I have posted on here, as I had really kind of hit a low point in my fandom over the last year, combined with a shitty year personally. However, I did drag my ass to see this on a Saturday afternoon matinee (which, to my absolute amazement, had 50 people at best in the theater - on Day 2!)
I am ecstatic to say that I was completely thrilled with this movie! I was completely hesitant, considering my extreme dislike for not just TFA, but for Disney's involvement at all. I only decided to even give it a shot in the last few days, and generally never even bothered watching trailers. Boy, am I glad I did. Completely redeemed the franchise after what was, in my opinion, a pure shit show last year. Not quite on the same level as Empire, but very close, if not equal to ANH. I am a fan of the PT, and for the last decade have alternated between ANH and ROTS as my #2 SW movie, but I can definitively say Rogue One is better than ROTS. Just not sure if after 12 hours I want to put it on equal footing to ANH.
Here is my more in depth, full review.
The way it starts was surprising. I was spoiled on no fanfare logo and text crawl, but in retrospect, I did look at it as separate from the main saga, so I can appreciate why they chose a different route.
One thing they did in this movie that the previous effort completely failed to do was give a backstory to our main protagonist. It let me know why she did the things she did, and ended up making me far more emotionally invested in her in the long run. I actually cared when she got upset, when she lost her father, and when she met her fate at the end.
Kassian was a character I wasn't sure about at first, but he ended up being quite a complex character. While I do have a gripe about the duo and their leap of faith to attain the DS plans being completely unrealistic, everything else about him was fantastic. The emotional turmoil he felt when faced with assassinating Jyn's father, and his journey from his first scene to his last one showed character development beyond even most OT characters.
The reference to the Whills was a very nice touch. They just gave it as a throwaway line, so it didn't fall into "fan service" territory, but it acknowledges the novelization of ANH, where Lucas began it with an excerpt from "The Journal of the Whills". Tremendous little nugget.
Other cameos and callbacks to the OT were great. You could tell Tarkin was CGI, but it was so well done that it wasn't an issue. Contrary to that, he was a definite bright spot. Same with Leia at the end. Her scene literally choked me up, and I had a hard time holding back a tear, which proved to me the emotional impact this film did have on me. The inclusion of Dr. Evazan and Walrusman (I refuse to call him by his EU name) was a smart touch, being a cameo that was fan service, yet made sense in the context they were used. The various droids and a couple of aliens were used as background characters the way Lucas would insert Jawas into Jabba's Palace, Bib Fortuna at the Boonta Eve podrace, or various droids popping up in several scenes in the background of the entire Lucas-helmed films.
Unfortunately, not all the cameos were good. While I had a fanboy jump for joy at seeing R2 & 3PO, it was an awkward cameo that was completely out of place. It would have made more sense for them to be seen on board the Tantive IV, as we all know they were on the ship with Leia after obtaining the DS plans. If they were just seen walking down a corridor on the ship, it would have been perfect, and completely tied in to ANH.
Also, using another Mon Calamari with Ackbar's voice and Admiral rank was something I was not a fan of. While I didn't have any problems with the character's role in the film, the species, his home ship, his rank, and all the other little things were right in line with my main issue with TFA, being a complete copycat of an OT character. Thankfully, that was really the only thing of note I saw that was an OT clone outside of what absolutely needed to be.
I was concerned K-2 was going to be a 3PO clone, the way BB-8 was an R2 clone, but aside from some corny 3PO-like lines, he actually had a distinct purpose besides comic relief. I was not a fan at first, but by the the time he had his last scene, he won me over and I felt for his end. I do have a minor issue with these Imperial Droids being so prominent in this movie, yet were absent aboard the Death Star in ANH. Minor issue though. The same issue popped up with the U-Wing and some of the TIE designs, but again, not a big deal.
I am blanking on names, but I'm not sure about the guardian of the Whills and his bodyguard. Overall, I liked their dynamic, even if the bodyguard did seem to be put in a Chewbacca-like role of sidekick. The line "Really? But I'm blind!" had me laughing harder than all the attempted humor in TFA combined. THAT is how you script a sarcastic line when faced against an enemy, not this "so who speaks first" gibberish. Also, in that fight between the rebels, the Imperials, and assassins/terrorists, I SWEAR I saw a wampa being led by one group on a leash. It was quick, but it was definitely a hairy white beast. The only thing I didn't like was that he was not a Jedi, therefore unable to control the Force, but did that walk against enemy fire to pull the switch that enabled transmission of the DS plans. It just didn't feel right.
Vader was terrific. I liked the consistency, by using a bacta tank straight out of ESB to heal his wounds. He had a Force choke, James Earl Jones was almost indistinguishable from 35 years ago in providing his voice, and his attack at the end was pure eye candy.
Mon Mothma was terrific. A lighter role, but they really showed how she had to follow the will of the Rebellion as a whole, but was secretly overjoyed at the "rogue" attack.
I have heard many complaints about the score. I thought it was perfect. It recalled several important John Williams themes when necessary (the Imperial March, and the epic piece used when Luke was looking at Tatooine's twin suns in particular), but also had several excellent original pieces, especially in action scenes.
The sound and special effects were amazing. So many little sounds from the OT used to perfection here. The AT-ST was a better scene to me than the AT-AT's. They perfectly integrated state of the art visual effects with nearly 40 year old effects like the look of the DS plans. Incorporating lines and images from Red Leader and Gold Leader were strokes of genius. Red 5 blew up, which was a nice way of explaining how the call sign was available for Luke later on. But really, the CGI Tarkin and Leia. Just wow. Not 100% perfect, but I have never witnessed a more photorealistic CGI human onscreen before, and not only did they pull it off, they made Tarkin into a major character! I'm biased, but that should win them an Academy Award for visual effects alone.
Then we have the plot. Yeah, like the Titanic, we all knew how it would end, since obviously the DS plans were a major component of the plot in ANH. However, instead of giving us a generic good vs bad, with an eventual win by the good guys, we got a story that not only went off in several unpredictable ways, but it even covered one of the very few plot holes in ANH. Many have asked over the years why the Empire wouldn't know of a weakness in the Death Star's structure. Well, now we know, if was an architect who designed the DS against his will, so he put the thermal exhaust port in there on purpose to give the Rebellion a chance. Unlike most revisionist ideas in prequels, this one made a TON of sense, and answered that existing plot hole in a very satisfying manner. I am also a MAJOR fan of using the first half of the movie to develop characters and the plot with minimal action scenes, and build to that final amazing action sequence. ANH and ROTJ did that exceptionally well (ESB isn't included because the best action scene of that movie happened in the first half), and this movie followed that template to perfection.
Yes, this movie has made me fall in love with Star Wars again, after a couple of years of increasing disenchantment. Can't say I have changed my opinion of Disney yet, as they are a very definite 1-1 so far for me, so here's to hoping TFA was the exception as a bad Disney SW movie, and not Rogue One being an exception as a good Disney SW film. An absolute 9.5/10 from me.
Oh, I do think they mixed up titles with that DC Comics summer hit too. That movie was filled with a "Rogue's" gallery of villains, while this movie was absolutely deserving of the title "Suicide Squad".