Fingers crossed this does not spur the wrath of franchise fanboys - I am not much a fan of Star Wars. I respect The Empire Strikes Back and get a real kick out of Return of the Jedi (largely on account of Jabba the Hut and those irresistible Ewoks) but A New Hope mostly bores me and I felt Episodes I, II and III often teetered on the hideously awful. I was entertained by last year's The Force Awakens but trust me, there was no urgency felt to revisit it anytime soon.
So, as you might imagine, I was not terribly pumped about the latest picture to sport the Star Wars name. There is, however, some good news to report - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not a complete miss, on the level of The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. It is still, I'm afraid, not an especially great film.
Rogue One opens with scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) being plucked away from his peaceful home life by the malicious Orson Kreenic (Ben Mendelsohn) to work for the Empire. Years down the road, he is the lead engineer for that notorious, seemingly unstoppable weapon, the Death Star. Galen's daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones), who fled the scene when Orson took her father, teams up with a Rebel spy (Diego Luna) and other members of the resistance to take on Orson and hopefully destroy the Death Star. There are, of course, plenty of bumps, explosions, one-liners and half-baked action sequences along the way.
Despite an accomplished cast and screenplay by the usually reliable Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz, Rogue One never quite takes off. It's not a bad film but rather one that just kind of sits there, as you wait for something fabulously exciting to happen (it never does). Jones, who was superb two years ago in The Theory of Everything, has a nice screen presence here but isn't given a whole lot to do. Even less meat is on the bone for her talented co-stars to devour. Only Mendelsohn really shines, as the film's one truly compelling character.
Michael Giacchino's original score is no John Williams but also not half-bad. Visually, the picture is not as striking as the last entry, or the first three pictures released, but at least it's not the same wall-to-wall, head-inducing CGI of Episodes I, II and III. Even as someone not enamored with this series, I sorely missed past characters, so much more memorable and fun than this bland crowd.
Could someone please make a spin-off for me with just Jabba, the Ewoks and Yoda?