The main problem I have with Rogue One is that I know how it ends. That said, I enjoyed the movie (the popcorn was awesome), but would classify it as good not great.
I like that, for the most part, the movie takes place back stage at a greater play. Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Tom Stoppard’s terrific play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, who hangout back stage at Hamlet and interact with main characters, the main characters of Rogue One interact with and stumble across main characters from the other movies. (Thanks to unused footage from the original movie you may even recognize a couple of the pilots.)
Unfortunately, because we know how Star Wars begins, we know what has to happen at the end of Rogue One. If you know Hamlet, you know what happens to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Stoppard’s play, which means, as the saying goes, the journey is more important than the destination. In the case of Rogue One, that journey has to end with a set of Death Star plans jammed in an R2 unit.
This wouldn’t be that much of a problem, except that the lead actors let the movie down.
For all its efforts at assembling a diverse cast (except among the Empire), Rogue One neglected to get two actors who either radiate presence through the screen or have such good chemistry that they generate energy. Unfortunately, either because of direction or acting style, neither Felicity Jones nor Diego Luna have the screen presence to dominate the movie. In fact, even during the film, I kept forgetting their characters’ names. It’s fair to say that CGI Grand Moff Tarkin has better chemistry with Orson Krennic (played by actor Ben Mendelsohn) than Jones and Luna have at any moment.
Jones is good as Jyn Erso, but at no time do I believe that her character has the charisma to inspire a group of rogues and bring them on a dangerous mission. Instead, and I blame the director for this, she spends a lot of time with a “Now listen guys, what we’re doing is REALLY IMPORTANT” look of determination on her face.
In the movie’s defense, her greatest attempt to rally the greatest number of people fails spectacularly so maybe that was all deliberate.
The rest of the cast, with the exception of a wheezing, scenery chewing, air mask sucking Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera/Frank Booth, are also good. The chemistry between Chinese actors Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen (as Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus, respectively) is excellent and nearly steals the movie. I could easily see one of them replacing Diego Luna as Captain something or other. (I can’t even be bothered to look it up.)
The robot character, K-2SO, voice by Alan Tudyk, looks suspiciously like the robot from Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky and provides most of the comic relief. I especially liked an early sequence where K-2’s disappointed that Jyn gets to carry a blaster but he doesn’t.
The movie does have a couple throwback cameos that make you go “What? How is that possible?” and it suffers from the “You gotta win the war in the cleanest, most ethical, least damage causing way possible or you are evil” attitude that was part of the premise of Captain America: Civil War, but the movie does explain why the Death Star was so easy to destroy in A New Hope, and the space battle sequence, as has been pointed out by other reviewers, is remarkably easy to follow.
I recommend people see Rogue One, I just don’t expect them to rush out and see it twice.