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This may have been the Star Wars movie we were looking for. It is both darker and more whimsical than any previous installment, and succeeds at both. Because its outcome is largely predetermined, it may lack some of the highs, but it absolutely lacks the lows.

More interestingly, this is a war movie in the way that previous forays into the universe have not been. Rogue One is willing to wonder about how collaboration, empire, and resistance actually work. The good guys squabble with each other. Moral certainty is rare. People die. It’s not exactly Armée des Ombres, but hard choices do have to be made, and victory is at least nominally uncertain. (Yeah, we’ve seen Episodes IV through VI, so it’s not actually up for grabs, but the Allies won WWII, as well, and Battle of Britain still ends on an ambivalent shrug.)

Also the new robot is amazing.rogueone

I liked it a lot, even though it left some things on the table. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t do more with Mads Mikkelsen’s Galen Erso or Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera, if they bothered to hire such recognizable and talented actors. Alistair Petrie’s head of Rebel intelligence, General Draven, should have had more to say about how reality is a thing, although Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) had a good line about it. Jyn (Felicity Jones) could have had a name I could catch–it took about two hours for me to realize her name wasn’t “Jed.”

But the fan service, such as it was, was restrained and effective. The effects were in the main excellent. Dialogue, as always, was a weak point, but the comic beats literally all landed, thanks to Alan Tudyk’s voice inside K-2SO. Donnie Yen’s wannabe Jedi Chirrut Îmwe added a new and welcome dimension to the Force.

Definitely better than Force Awakens, maybe better than Revenge of the Sith.

Director: Gareth Edwards
Rating: PG-13
Length: 133 minutes
Score: 4/5

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Two things about this film:

1. Eddie Redmayne definitely deserved that Oscar.

2. I direct you to The Economist, which observes–rightly–that there was far too little science in this movie. Many people have Motor Neurone Disease and wives; only one man is Stephen Hawking.

Director: James Marsh
Rating: PG-13
Length: 123 min.
Score: 4/5.