By @SimonCocking – a spoiler free review.

It’s out. We’re now into the era of a Star Wars movie for Christmas, possibly for ever, or at least for the next three years, as well as the last two including this one. Having recently re-watched the prequel trilogy in the series this could  be a truly awful state of affairs…

Fortunately it seems that in selling the franchise to Disney, George Lucas may have done us all, himself included, a great favour. For starters, last year’s reboot, ‘The Force Awakens’ say it quietly, wasn’t actually that bad. Now for all of those of us who have watched I, II and III, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that expectations (mine at least) were extremely low after the awful (Jar Jar Binks?) and the plain creepy (Anakin going from being a 5 year old pod racer prodigy, to a moody teenager, to the stalker who sired Luke and Leia …).

So, 12 months later, here came the ultimate in filler. Something to keep us going, while they edited all those lovely green and grey Skellig island shots into something meaningful. What would it be like? How bad would it be? Especially as we had heard of none of these characters, as by definition this was a bit of a story squeezed in between III and IV to fill in the gaps.

Except. They got a great, young, promising director, Gareth Edwards, who made the pretty good ‘Monsters’ 2010 -> check it out, it was good, on a low low budget. The lead actress, Felicity Jones, was also very good in Chalet Girl, and Diego Luna, also very good in Y tu mama tambien and Milk among other films. Not to mention the always edgy but cool Forrest Whitaker who gave a great cameo – was he inspired by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet? Overall the cast was good, cool, and got on with it. We were saved the stagy awkward Padme / Anakin romance, or even the pretty telegraphed plot story lines in A New Hope. I have no insights into the plot of Star Wars VIII but I’m pretty sure Rey may discover her parents are more famous than she thought …

Thankfully Rogue One has none of these plot legacies to have to deal with. Instead it is a rip roaring, get them in, set them up, and watch the sparks fly as they chase the elusive treasure. The longer it went on, the more it felt like we had slipped into a space mashup of The Dirty Dozen, the Magnificent Seven, Kelly’s Heroes and naturally the Seven Samurai. Ultimately we all know that it must end somewhere just before Star Wars IV (the original movie) begins, but how we get to that point becomes an insane, joyous, explosive, elemental journey.

When the dust finally set I was just a little traumatised at what had come to pass. At the same time I was relieved that they had completed a great little episode that sits happily within the wider Star Wars canon. Certainly better than all three of the prequel trilogies, and possibly less uneven than some of the first three movies too. Go see it, with your kids, and try not to let them see that you were perhaps even just a little bit moved.

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