Disney keeps up its successful hand with the Star Wars franchise, after acquiring Lucasfilm in 2012, with a second winner in the course of one year. After the unprecedented success of THE FORCE AWAKENS comes ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. While being the first standalone feature film in the venerable franchise, you don't doubt for a moment that the characters of this new movie are living in the same universe as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, etc.

Felicity Jones plays the central protagonist Jyn Erso, who is freed from prison (where she is serving a sentence for petty thievery) to embark on a mission to steal the secret plans which expose a secret flaw in the Galactic Empire's new weapon of mass destruction, a planet-obliterating space fortress called the Death Star. She is joined on her mission by a band of other intrepid adventurers, including a smart-alec reprogrammed imperial droid named K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk of FIREFLY fame).

I found myself enjoying ROGUE ONE more than I expected. It has a darker tone and a slightly different feel than previous films in the franchise. This gives it the freshest vibe than fans have experienced since the very first film back in 1977, today referred to as A NEW HOPE.
The special effects include the expected space dogfights and ground combat. This is more a war movie than any previous Star Wars entry. Where ROGUE ONE truly breaks new ground, however, is in the realm of CGI, where Peter Cushing reprises his role of Grand Moff Tarkin despite having died in 1994. Not only does the character appear in the film, but he actually plays an integral part in the story and is featured in several scenes. ROGUE ONE will probably be remembered as a watershed moment in the history of cinema for that bit of movie magic. Another iconic character makes a small cameo at the end, also courtesy of CGI.

The appearance of the fan-favorite villain Darth Vader in a few scenes, once again voiced by the one and only James Earl Jones, also helps ensure that ROGUE ONE is a crowd-pleaser. In some ways, I may have enjoyed it even more than last year's THE FORCE AWAKENS, despite loving that film as well. 

Disney is off to a great start after having taken over the franchise. In retrospect, George Lucas's decision to sell his company was the best decision he could've taken. After many years of cringe-inducing moments for Star Wars fans with the flawed prequels, the good times are finally back!


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