Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) had one job - to explain why a Death Star would blow up from one little missile in the exhaust port. It succeeds brilliantly.
It starts with Gregoryc Orso (Mads Mikkelson) being dragged off of his farm by Commander Fenwick to work on the Death Star, leaving his little daughter hiding behind. She grows up to be Felicity Jones
We find this out when Rebel agent Prince Caspian (Diego Luna) rescues her and Imperial pilot and defector Buddy (Riz Ahmed) from being taken to Imperial prison. Then they all take off with a reprogrammed Imperial droid KRS-One (Alan Tudyk).
OK, I'll stop with the jokey names. But seriously, that's about how much of the dramatis personae I was picking up. I also got kind of lost between all the planets the story visited, but they all looked great so I am not complaining. The story turns out to be simple. The Rebels are beginning to hear rumors about a planet-destroying megaweapon. But Jones' dad has secretly built a tiny flaw into the reactor core, and the Rebels need to get the plans to exploit it.
The planets are cool. The main characters are fun. The droid is great, a Star Wars version of Marvin from Hitchhiker's Guide. Later on, we get a blind mystic kung fu master, Donnie Yen, who chants "The Force is with me" like it was "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo", along with his big-gun badass buddy Jiang Wen. Forrest Whittaker plays Saw Gerrara, the radical revolutionary, almost a throw-away. It would be nice to see more, but -SPOILER- I don't think we will.
Right now, I'd say I enjoyed this more than Ep. 7, maybe more than any Star Wars movie since Ep. 4. I liked the rich texture, the cities and the crowds, the scenic planets. It hit all the Star Wars notes, but still stayed fresh, with only a few hints of R2-D2 and C3-PO, plus a digitally rejuvenated Princess. Oh, and the late Christopher Plummer plays Tarkin by CGI - tasteful, but looks a bit video game.
And Mr. Vader gets a great scene at the end, whooping it up with the force. All in all, a very satisying movie.