Spinning a Star Wars yarn without the Skywalker family shouldn’t feel like a gamble, but Rogue One still somehow does. Does importing a darker tone, leaving out the space wizards and wholeheartedly embracing an aesthetic 39 years old work? Yes and no. The heist movie elements – just before Episode IV kicks off, Felicity Jones leads a band of misfits attempting to steal the plans of the original Death Star – are terrific, taking place amid the series’s best combat yet. Sadly, though, there's a lot of shoe leather before the mission gets going – it’s not entirely clear, for example, why a visit to Forest Whitaker’s mentor figure is even in the film. That said, once things are up and running, there’s a pleasingly fresh sense of desperation and stakes absent from the more straightforward earlier films, as well as a tentative suggestion that the rebellion might not be morally unquestionable. Who could have imagined in the dark days of the prequels that the best element of a Star Wars film could be its ethical sophistication? Times & trailer
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