By Linc Leifeste | December 14, 2016
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy (screenplay), John Knoll and Gary Whitta (story by), George Lucas (base on characters created by)
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits
Just so you know, I really like the Star Wars movies, even if I don’t quite love the Star Wars movies. In that regard, I’m probably about average for a guy born in the early 70’s. I have really fond youthful memories of those first three films. And then I eagerly wasted my money and time going to the theater to see those re-released versions where Lucas added a bunch of shitty CGI on top of the classic films and then wasted more money to go see see The Phantom Menace and wound up wanting to punch George Lucas in the face for subjecting me to Jar Jar Binks. By the time The Force Awakens rolled around, I wasn’t even sure I was a fan of the franchise any longer. And then, in the theater, there was the opening crawl and that music hit me and I was transported back to 1980 and got all emotional and giddy and then the film was really, really good and I was really, really glad that George Lucas wasn’t involved and I realized I still kind of love the Star Wars world.
And then life goes on and suddenly there’s news of a new Star Wars movie and I have no idea when and where it fits into the timeline or who’s in it nor do I really care all that much. But then I’m in the theater for a screening and there’s the opening crawl and that music hits me and again I’m suddenly giddy and emotional and as this thrilling adventure/war story unfolds before my eyes, I’m simultaneously so grateful for George Lucas creating this world and for him no longer having control over it.
For the record, if you want to know, this story takes place just before 1977’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and it covers the Empire’s construction of the Death Star as well as giving the backstory on how Princess Leia and the rebels managed to get the plans to the Death Star that opened the door to their destruction of it. The film opens with a young girl, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), witnessing the death of her mother and abduction of her scientist father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) at the hands of Empire commander Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). It seems he’s key to the development of the planet-destroying Death Star weapon and will assist whether he wants to or not.
Young Jyn escapes the clutches of Krennic and his storm troopers and grows up, with an assist from hardcore rebel Saw Gerrerra (Forest Whitaker) to be a tough, independent minded galactic roustabout. But of course it’s only a matter of time until she’s drawn into the rebellion when rebel Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) hijacks her in order to get to her father. They’re aided in their mission by a renegade Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a reprogrammed Imperial droid named K-2S0 (voiced by Alan Tudyk) who provides much-needed comic relief as well as by a blind force-filled monk, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and his less spiritual but better-armed companion Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang). They’re a lovable rag-tag bunch up against a seemingly unstoppable force and in this dark, action-filled war story, you learn one more time how it’s possible to lose the battle but win the war.
The truth of the matter is that I think this film stands up pretty well on its own. I found myself invested in the characters early on and was fully invested all the way through the end credits. I was on the edge of my seat at times. I laughed, I smiled and I might have even had a tear roll down my cheek. But, for better or worse, I find it impossible to critique this film fairly because as the story rolls along it ties the viewer back into the greater Star Wars universe and old memories and emotions are triggered and any sense of objective viewing goes right out the window. And you know what? Thank goodness for that. These days, maybe more than ever, I need something to believe in and something to be excited about and I’ll most definitely be in the theater for the next installment in the franchise.