Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in the film “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” (Lucasfilm Ltd.)

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" takes place in the days before 1977’s "Star Wars: A New Hope," and tells the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), an Imperial engineer working on an experimental new project known as the Death Star.

Jyn hasn’t seen her father since the Galactic Empire called him back to work on the Death Star project when she was a little girl.

Fifteen years later, Jyn finds herself being broken out of an Imperial prison by a group of rebel soldiers. They take her to the rebel base, where they question her she about her father’s involvement in the Death Star project. They then realize that Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), a man who watched over Jyn in her father’s absence, might have a message from Galen warning Jyn about the dangers of the Death Star, and its hidden weakness.

A hologram message was given to Galen by an Imperial pilot who defected, and, unbeknownst to the rebels, is now imprisoned in Gerrera headquarters on the planet Jedha.

Jyn, along with a rebel lieutenant named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and, K2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid, head to Jedha, where they find Gerrera, watch the holographic message from Galen, and meet two men, a blind fortune teller who strong in the Force, and his friend, a mercenary who agree to help them.

Meanwhile, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), director of the Death Star project, tests the weapon on Jedha, destroying a portion of the planet and causing the newly formed group of rebels to rescue the pilot and flee Jedha with their lives intact.

Now, with the information they need, the real task is at hand: to retrieve the plans to the Death Star before it can be used again.

The characters in "Rogue One" are deep, likable and understandable. Jyn Erso for instance, knows full well the destructive power of the Death Star, (especially after witnessing it first-hand on Jedha) but, doesn’t fully appreciate being used by the rebels to find her father, a difficult topic for her since she feels both a strong longing, and some contempt, for him. No major character seems unnecessary or just fan service, either (even Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) has an important scene that sets up "A New Hope"). This makes everyone seem almost equally important for the plot and engaging on their own.

Another commendable achievement is the special effects. Practical effects are used quite frequently, which is something that is very welcome to me in films today, especially when they are done this well. Most creatures and droids are done practically to great effect.

Accompanying this is the CGI, which is used masterfully, but only when necessary. The late Peter Cushing’s character, Grand Moff Tarkin, is featured prominently in the film, rendered completely in CGI, and it looks incredible, almost indistinguishable from any living actors on set.

In some other instances, CGI is used to improve practical effects (like in the "Star Wars" special editions) or for space battles, which are mesmerizing and inspiring.

Also inspiring is the set and sound design. Everything just looks and sounds perfectly in line with "Star Wars" lore, and really sets a new standard in both it’s accuracy and intricacy.

Speaking of which, the action scenes are great. They are very well thought-out and choreographed, which makes them dynamic and impressive (they make up basically the final third of the movie) but also easy to follow; a nice change from what is common in modern blockbusters.

The fight scenes themselves are reminiscent of the Marvel cinematic universe films in the sense that the characters develop through them in some instances, but of course, they are still distinctly "Star Wars."

I’m more than happy to say that "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is the best assurance future movies in the franchise have in terms of quality since last year’s "The Force Awakens," and that is saying quite a lot.

You don’t have to know much about "Star Wars" to enjoy it at a base level, but an advanced knowledge is definitely rewarded, considering that there are cameos in virtually every scene.

This film feels like "Star Wars" without having to retread any plot points, and definitely has the great characters, emotion, and plot that make it more than worthy of the franchises lineage.

Quinn Zack is a sophomore at Hamburg High School.

 

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