** out of four
You know when you are in a discount store and see a toy or action figure that is a cheap knockoff of the “real thing”? That is how I feel about the Star Wars “spin-off” movie Rogue One. It never feels like a true Star Wars movie. What we get are weak characters, forced call backs to the original films and overly familiar space battles.
Rogue One is not a part of the episodic Star Wars saga (currently up to Episode VII with VIII on the way in 2017), but a stand alone story...sort of. The events in Rogue One take place immediately before the events in the first Star Wars (1977), which was re-christened Episode IV: A New Hope on re-release. Anyway, a group of rebels are brought together for a dangerous mission – to steal the plans for the Empire's dreaded planet destroyer known as the Death Star. Among the crew is assassin Cassian (Diego Luna), blind martial arts master Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and opinionated droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk). Then there is loner Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) whose father (Mads Mikkelsen) is the scientist who was forced to create the Death Star.
There is some excitement early on, and Tudyk generates some laughs, but the rest is pretty boring. Instead of being a bad ass akin to a female Snake Plissken, Jones' character is woefully dull. She barely registers. And she's our main character!
Say what you will about Star Wars creator George Lucas and his prequels, but he showed us something new in each of his films, whether it be new vehicles, new creatures or new environments. Rogue One and last year's The Force Awakens just rehash things from the first three films in an attempt to ride the nostalgia train. Oh, look! Darth Vader shows up here. Who cares? And R2-D2 and C-3PO are wedged into a dumb cameo. But don't worry, there is yet another rebel attack on an imperial space station.
Most bothersome is that a digital rendering of the late Peter Cushing, as the evil Grand Moff Tarkin from A New Hope, shows up in a supporting role. It's creepy, and I think Disney, the studio that created this movie, crossed some sort of ethical boundary. There is also a CGI young Princess Leia which, again, is the stuff of nightmares.
I'm sorry to say, but Rogue One just doesn't have that Star Wars magic. See La La Land instead.