So first of all let me say SPOILER ALERT! And let me say it again – SPOILER ALERT!! And once more with feeling – SPOILER ALERT!!! How can I possibly explain all the amazingly cool things about this movie without covering some characters, plot points and big scenes. So there will be spoilers aplenty. If you haven’t seen Rogue One then please don’t read this yet. Suffice to say that this film rocked and I felt it was so much better than The Force Awakens. I thought Episode VII sucked big style. Here are some previous rants about it – here and here.

I saw a couple of trailers and heard there were some reshoots required and that was about all the exposure I had to the film before going to see it. I did however watch the original trilogy the day before and harboured some hope that Rogue One would be great and not the dog’s dinner rehash that Episode VII was. I was so happy when my hopes came true. As I think they say in the films, sometimes hope is all we have. I would give this 10/10 if I still rated films like that, but would then deduct 1 point for a couple of things I will get to below.

There’s no ‘crawling’ text introduction at the start of the film and that’s fine because it’s not an episode of the saga. Although it IS. It’s Episode 3.5, or 3.9 given that it precedes Episode IV by about thirty minutes. Instead we get a prequel scene where ambitious Empire scientist Krennic meets the father of the main character (Jyn Erso) and tries to convince him to join him in building the Death Star. He’s all nicey nicey with Jyn’s father riffing off the Nazi in Inglorious Basterds and you just know shit is going to go down.

Then we get a fanfare and the first taste of the great soundtrack in the spirit of John Williams by Michael Giacchino and the title of the film in a very non-Star Wars font. It looks like director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) is telling us this is going to be different from the saga films and indeed it is, where it counts. Perhaps closest to The Empire Strikes Back in terms of the darkness of the story, this is certainly not in the goofy spirit of the other prequel episodes and emphasizes the ‘war’ in Star Wars.

It’s also not a rehash. Sure there are some familiar scenes, but they are used sparingly – such as the infiltrators having to use an old code to get past security in a stolen Imperial ship and down to the surface of Scariff (familiar to me from playing way too much on Star Wars: Battlefront – about which I will blog later); the Death Star firing its green energy weapon; the roguish male counterpart to Jyn (Cassian Andor excellently played by the aptly named Diego Luna) almost but not quite telling the robot to never tell him the odds; the Yavin 4 rebel base; a couple of stormtroopers discussing something being decommissioned; and one of the characters almost but not quite saying ‘I have a bad feeling about this…’ It’s good callback for fans without being too in your face.

Talking about the robot, we get something far less cutesy than the stupid beeping beachball robot from Episode VII in the form of K-2SO. He’s a reprogrammed Imperial droid looking like a dark beefed up cross between C3-PO and the battle droids from the clone wars. His programming leads him to have no filter and he just speaks whatever comes into his circuits. It’s a great voice performance from Alan Tudyk (Frozen, Firefly) and adds a much needed layer of humour to film. But note that it’s mostly dark humour.

The new characters – all doomed as C3PO would say – are all pretty cool and well-acted. And that reminds me of the only other bit of baggage I took with me (apart from my deep seated resentment towards Episode VII) which was an expectation much like I had with Titanic which was that I knew that they were all going to die (because they’re not in Episode IV) but it was about the story of how they got hold of the plans to the Death Star. Most notable to me is Ip Man Donnie Yen playing a blind monk Chirrut Imwe in the style of Zatochi using the force to guide his way between laser blasts.

It’s also great to see familiar main(/ish) characters: Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. There’s also a quick glimpse of C3PO and R2-D2 (because of course they have to be cued up to link to Episode IV). Tarkin and Leia are CG characters and these are the couple of ‘things’ that I had a bit of problem with and therefore deducted a point from my otherwise 10/10 score. The graphics are excellent but it’s still not 100% lifelike and therefore a bit disturbing when shown on a big screen. But hats off to them for attempting it.

There are also some returning (very/) minor characters including the ‘my friend doesn’t like you. I don’t like you…’ ugly chap and his walrus-faced buddy from Mos Eisley Cantina; Gold leader and Red leader rebel fighter pilots; the insectoid headed humanoid shiny robot; the mouse droid; the Imperial probe droids; and some Star Wars Rebels and Clone Wars animated series cross-overs. There’s also the rebel scope tower, blue milk, twi’lek dancers, the chess game, clear 2D navigation screens etc. etc. There’s at least 42 ‘Easter eggs’ in the film if you are geeky enough to count them all. It’s FANtastic and none of it seems shoe-horned in (apart from the quick appearances C3PO and R2-D2).

The best returning character is undoubtedly Vader who kicks some serious ass at the end of the film with his lightsabre and force powers. For me (and I think Kevin Smith having watched his hour and half review) this is my favourite scene of the film. The power of the scene as he cuts through all the rebels in the corridor is breathtaking especially after seeing him largely inactive in his other scenes.

The other great thing (if we skip the awesome space battles, amazing real in-camera and special effects, the brilliant AT-AT takedowns and the emotional death scenes of our plucky bands of rebels) is the satisfaction of finally being provided with an explanation of the piss poor flaw in the design of the Death Star. Jyn’s father puts it there on purpose and takes away the ‘as if’ feeling I always had towards the easy ‘use the force’ take down of the whole battle station by Luke Skywalker in Episode IV.

Sure, there are a few minor niggles in the plot if you stick it under a microscope but they are so minor and I am so pumped after seeing this film that I’m not going to mention them. Also did I mention that Warwick Davis plays a nasty looking little creature with a big gun? Excellent stuff.

Whatever the reshoots were, it must have worked out because this film is fabulous. FAB, U, LUS!!