ROGUE ONE -- A Star Wars Story
Now that's how one does a prequel! I re-watched Episodes II and III beforehand, and it really aided in my enjoyment. Rogue One bridges the two trilogies quite nicely (no spoilers but there's a prequel cameo.) It also explains the reasons for the weaknesses in the Death Star designs. This did a better job of showing Vader as a bad ass more than any other Star Wars movie. And while I wasn't expecting this to be better than the original trilogy, I have to say it has the best ending of any Star Wars movie ever. The audience I saw it with cheered, cried, and dropped jaws in awe during the final 15 minutes, then applauded when the credits hit.
It's more original than The Force Awakens, but maybe not as enjoyable. This standalone may not feel or sound as much a Star Wars movie as others, but it definitely looks like a Star Wars environment. But it's determined to be more like a WWII movie than a Star Wars one, highlighting the sacrifices characters make not just with their lives, but with their choices and actions. The droid gives the movie its humor and steals most of the scenes he's in. Diego Luna is a bit dry, but Felicity Jones takes you with her once she makes her choice to act against the Empire. And the Empire has never been quite as evil as now as we see it ravish its planets and terrorize its citizens. Director Krennic may not be the biggest villain in the empire, but he's ruthless nonetheless, and his ultimate fate is ironically fitting. The film is not quite as dark as the last 40 minutes of Revenge of the Sith, but it resonates more deeply.
I thinks it's safe to say Disney is now 2 for 2 in carrying on the saga, though that may have more to do with Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy than anybody else. The cast is diverse, the dialogue is good, the acting solid, and the visual effects are spectacular. Michael Giachino did a solid job with the music, especially since he was only given a month to score the film after Alexander Desplat backed out at the last minute. After this, I'm ready to see what they do with young Han Solo.