“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is being billed as the first stand-alone "Star Wars" movie, but it sits rather squarely in the center of that galaxy far, far away. The plot is essentially one long battle and is designed as a lead-in to the events in the 1977 original. Plus there are token appearances by Darth Vader and (although very brief) R2-D2 and C-3PO, as well as a final guest surprise.
I’ve never been a fanboy of this franchise. I enjoyed the original, loved “The Empire Strikes Back,” and had fun at “The Force Awakens” last year. The rest of the entries strike me as being heavy on the hardware and light on true inspiration.
In the reasonably good “Rogue One,” directed by Gareth Edwards (he of the “Godzilla” redo), Felicity Jones’s warrior, Jyn Erso, teams up with Diego Luna’s rebel spy, Cassian Andor, to take down the Galactic Empire. Joining the Alliance in this jamboree are such nifty sidekicks as Donnie Yen’s blind swordsman, Chirrut Îmwe, and Wen Jiang’s grunting guerrilla, Baze Malbus. (At times he seems to be channelling Toshirô Mifune in “Seven Samurai”).
By far the most entertaining protagonist in the movie, however, is the effete droid K-2SO, who has all the good lines. (The script is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.)
I’m not sure if it’s such a good thing that the best character in a sci-fi movie is a robot. But then again, the best character in “2001: A Space Odyssey” was HAL, and that film wasn't half-bad. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.)