I would prefer to approach this movie critique with something close to professional standards for a Crackpot Right Wing Blog. Sadly that would entail not revealing any spoilers.
However I feel I owe it to my readers to answer the question, was Cataline right about the Rogue One Team being the Knights of Ren?
Answer: Nope they ain't. There is no way that they could be. Which effectively tells you most the plot of the whole movie.
You've guessed the rest of it just looking at the trailers. The heroine's father designed the Deathstar but he also designed into it the flaw that Luke exploited. The rebels didn't just sneak in and filch the plans. You were told in the first minute in 1977 that "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire...During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon. The key word is "Battle" That Op was not a snoop and poop. There was a big fight. And that would be the climax of any story
And you never do see these guys again in any of the other movies. There is really only one reason for that and they didn't shy away from it.
I was also right about the fate of the Walsh-bot.
This is a movie where you pretty much know the entire story when you've paid for your ticket. So why go?
Because a story succeeds or fails in the style of it's telling.
So okay, lets take a look at this film as a film and try not to view it as the product of Disney SJW convergence. Which isn't easy as the head of the Star Wars unit at Disney is a screaming feminist.
I'll start with something you won't believe. I appreciate this film. Which is not the same as liking it. They took a lot risks here with one of the company's cash cows, which I feel is a good thing in general. Or at least it feels like they were taking risks when in fact they weren't, after all it has the name Star Wars on it, how much of a chance were they ever really taking?
Here is the hidden secret of Rogue One. I can tell that it was designed from the ground up to appeal to the Chinese market. Star Wars: the Force Awakens didn't do big business there but Warcraft blew the doors clean off. There was a reason for that.
The film grammar, the pacing, the tone are all straight out of Chinese film epics. It is a long damn movie, one with an oppressive sense of fate and tragedy through out. You know these characters aren't getting out of this alive because you never see or hear of them in the first trilogy. They start off as goners.
The People of the Han eat that shit right up.
There is the bigger question of will it sell in America? This could be the first Star Wars flop but I doubt it. Because it has the name Star Wars in the title, like I said before.
Although actually it doesn't.
Film begins; we see the Lucasfilm logo followed by the familiar "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."
And then, bam, star field. No title card. No crawling Flash Gordon text telling you everything you need to know to set things up. No John Williams overture. Just the star field. It is a very deliberate jolt to an audiance that is expecting those things and didn't get them. Then the shot scrolls upward instead down which is the opposite of how Lucas did it in the original. In fact I'm pretty sure all of them started with a scroll down, now that I think of it. It was a nice high brow way of letting you know things were going to be different with this one.
An Imperial Shuttle appears and heads for a planet. The Imperials are coming to collect the Deathstar's chief designer. He ran off awhile back and appears to have been in hiding making a living as a rock farmer. That's what his farm seems to grow anyway; rocks.
Enter the bad guy dressed in white, A not so subtle hint of things to come. These two men clearly know each other.
Director Krennic: We are on the verge of bringing peace to the galaxy.
Galen Erso: By spreading terror?
Director Krennic: Well you have to start somewhere.
I can't spoil what you have already guessed, Our Heroine's mother is killed by the bad guy, Krennic in the first five minutes (that also falls under Cataline's five minute spoiler rule). That is actually right, good and proper. Bad guy shows up, you tell the audience that he is bad and then you have him do something bad so they won't like him. Fine.
Her father is taken away and Jyn Erso goes into hiding.
Now we see the title card that just says Rogue One.
This is a Star Wars movie that is trying hard not to be a Star Wars movie. I can appreciate that too. Although in truth it isn't trying that hard.
After the title card the movie picks up sixteen years later. Which is also a nice film school trick.
We catch up with grown Jenna who is now a prisoner in an Imperial Gulag. Well we always knew the Empire had to have one somewhere. And it continues the tone set by the movie's first scenes. This is a movie that takes it time and builds it's setting instead of immediately hitting you as hard as it can as much story telling economy as possible
The atmosphere in this one is a lot different. Yep it's dark and gritty, I guessed that one right. Cassian Andor is our male non-love interest. He holds the rank of "Captain" in Rebel Intelligence. In function he is a cold blooded assassin and proves it early on.
It turns out there are extremist branches of the rebellion. Jyn's demi-stepfather is one of them. He proves he is just as ruthless as Cassian Andor in getting what he wants.
The poverty in Jedha City has an edge to it that young Lucas might have approved of but that old Lucas wouldn't. There is very little little in the way of humor. The Walsh-Droid gets the best lines. Although they did give a few to Donnie Yen.
I admit to liking all this.
One of the things that nobody remembers about the original Star Wars is that it was one of the first Science Fiction movies where the future wasn't clean and white. It had a lived in and dirty edge to it. Now that all got cleaned up in later movies when Lucas lost his teeth but it was there originally.
They took a lot of risks with a story where the plot is pretty damn easy to guess. The overarching theme of this film is that all of these characters are struggling to find their way back to hope. Jyn in believing in her father. Cassian in believing in anything. The unemployed monk guards of the Jedi temple are trying to find their way back to faith (even if it is a ludicrous 70s hippy religion). The Rebels are trying to find hope for their Rebellion. All in the face of the relentlessly consuming power of the Empire. The Deathstar makes an effective symbol for that.
For instance. Early on Director Krennic has to make a report to a superior. Krennic enters the room, shot from the back he walks up to a figure who is facing out of a window and we can vaguely make out the reflected thus obscured features as being those of Grand Moff Tarkin. And I thought to myself, ah good, the actor (playing Peter Cushing) playing Tarkin is going to deliver his lines with his back to Krennic. Most commendable I thought. They aren't going to have some guy with computer junk on face looking vaguely off as a human being talking to the camera. He will, I assumed, just continue speaking to the window, thus indicating Tarkin's contempt for Krennic while at the same time performing a nice little trick that won't take me out of the moment by using CGI to animate the face of...and then Tarkin turned around. It was everything I thought it would be and more. That's not a good thing.
Tarkin shows up several more times than the plot needs and each time he has his creepy computer face drawing attention away from the drama. Later they do the same thing albeit more briefly with Princess Leia.
Darth Vader's appearances are pretty much just fan service and bluntly are way over done. They feel tacked on because they probably were. It has the look and feel of something ordered by the studio. Vader's scenes if anything were a hiccough that stuttered the tone of the film. And not to be brutal here but they should think about getting another actor to do the voice. James Earl Jones is 85 and has the voice of an 85 year old. He's a great actor but he can't carry the role anymore. Although I did like Vader's lava temple even if it felt like something right out of the prequels.
I have heard the complaint that all of the bad guys in this movie were white. Which is completely true. They were. There was not one Imperial that was a POC. The Empire is now completely and deliberately White Washed. Although the POCs aren't exactly good guys either. Just goodish for the most part. These days it's hard to do a politics free review especially as every SJW blogger in the universe is going to be making comparisons between Rogue One and the recent election. Casting themselves as the Rebels naturally. In fact the writers of the film began those comparisons themselves the night of the election, right before Mickey the Great and Terrible told them to shut the fuck up and start deleting their tweets. Yes, this film has feminism's fingerprints all over it.
The battle scene at the climax is actually very good. Not Saving Private Ryan good but really good. Better than the silly shit with the Teddy Bears in Jedi. Way better than any of the computer generated light shows in the prequels. The battle scene was well structured and timed. The action escalated as it should and it didn't become boring with action-overload like the ones in the prequels. They didn't take "going over the top" over the damn top.
Battle concludes our heroes find salvation if not escape. The rebel plans are put into Leia's hands right before the credits roll. And they do use the Star Wars credits music, indicating continuity is now invited back to the party.
In conclusion we have decent if completely predictable, western made film designed for the Chinese Market. They took some smallish chances and went gritty with it. It doesn't feel like Star Wars in the least even though it takes place in the Star Wars universe. It does have the best battle scene in the entire series to include the assault on Hoth. I feel the story did succeed in the style of it's telling.
Your call if you want to see it or not.