I cried at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Seriously. I admit that without one shred of shame.
It wasn't a full on wailing or blubbering or anything like that, it was just my eyes getting much too watery and me getting emotionally overwhelmed. When I tried to explain what was going on to my girlfriend, I got choked up trying to tell her. I wasn't expecting that at all.
Without spoiling anything particular, I will say that most of that emotion comes from the last 30 minutes of Rogue One, especially the end itself which is the incredible crescendo of the whole movie. The film itself from start to finish is one of the best Star Wars movies ever made and thoroughly surpasses Episode VII: The Force Awakens, despite how great that movie is.
I've been a fan of director Gareth Edwards since first seeing his triumph with Godzilla in 2014 and when he was hired to direct Rogue One, I knew from the beginning that we were going to see an actual war movie for the first time ever in Star Wars. That's nothing against the other seven movies, even the prequels but those movies focus on the Skywalker saga, the battle between the Jedi and the Sith and really just give you a broad look at how The Empire or The First Order have affected the entire galaxy with their reign of terror. Here and there you would see shots of their tyranny and persecution from the ground level, but not for too long.
Rogue One is over two hours of that ground level experience, expertly shot and framed to put you right in the middle of what the rest of the not Force-sensitive galaxy was experiencing during the Galactic Empire's reign. It's heavy, it's powerful and sometimes it's downright brutal. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith no longer holds the title of "darkest Star Wars movie." Rogue One has firmly taken that over in spades.
The story is brilliantly crafted though, telling the tale of Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso, an outlaw and criminal on the run who is rescued and recruited by the Rebel Alliance to find her father Galen, played by Mads Mikkelsen, who has a serious Oppenheimer-like connection to the creation of The Empire's ultimate weapon The Death Star, being trumpeted by ambitious Empire official Orson Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn. Aiding Jyn in the pursuit of Galen is Diego Luna's Cassian Andor, droid K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk, Chirrut Imwe played by 53-year old martial arts master Donnie Yen, his compatriot Baze Malbus played by Wen Jiang and Riz Ahmed's Bodhi Rook. Along the way they cross paths with Forest Whitaker's Saw Gerrera, a critical character that was introduced in the Clone Wars cartoon.
The best thing about this cast is that none of these characters are without a past and while they are locked in a battle of good versus evil, a number of them have straddled that line in the course of the war and you get to see them struggle with that as they form the group that will "quietly" make history as the ones who actually stole the Death Star plans for Episode IV's well-known macguffin. I say quietly because up until this point, the most we knew of their story was in the Episode IV opening crawl and as a fan of Star Wars since I was eight years old, it is incredible to see that story finally told on the big screen.
That brings up another one of Rogue One's incredible accomplishments: Its almost PERFECT alignment with Episode IV: A New Hope. I won't go into detail to keep this a relatively spoiler-free review, but Edwards and his crew did an absolutely masterful job of making Rogue One fit together with Episode IV like a missing puzzle piece finally found at last. No small task considering that 39 years of filmmaking advances, visual effects evolution and the passage of time itself separates the two movies. Obviously Rogue One is visually superior with what can be accomplished today, but the story itself is almost seamless with Episode IV and I'm only saying almost because I don't like saying perfectly. For a movie that is a prequel leading into one of the most popular movies of all-time, there's more than enough surprises and "wow" moments that I will keep quiet on because you just have to see them to believe them. Just be prepared for the interviews and behind the scenes videos that are certain to come out soon about just how exactly Edwards and his crew were able to pull off such an incredible task.
Now it's time to talk about the guy that helped the crew pull off this grand spectacle with yet another incredible score: Michael Giacchino. Without question, he is one of the best film score composers of our time and on the heels of his phenomenal work with the Star Trek reboot movies, Mission Impossible and last month's Doctor Strange, he turns in a stellar effort in Rogue One that manages to sound like John Williams without actually copying The Maestro himself. The movie sounds like Star Wars through and through and for a composer that was pressed into "emergency service" after original Rogue One composer Alexandre Desplat had to bow out, Giacchino's work is nothing short of fantastic as is his entire body of work. Just as JJ Abrams is the only director to direct both Star Trek and Star Wars movies, Michael Giacchino is now the only composer to compose scores for both franchises, and in the same year no less as Star Trek Beyond was released back in July.
The bottom line is that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an absolutely fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe and has set the bar extremely high for the future spinoff films and even Episode VIII itself. For fans that were skeptical of Disney's direction with the franchise after The Force Awakens (I'm not one of them, by the way), this movie is the refreshing change of pace that many of you may have been looking for. It obviously must respect the original trilogy in order to fit in with it, but it is a very different type of Star Wars movie in general and has one of the strongest narratives of any of the films. If this is any indication of where Disney is going to take the franchise, then we are in for a stellar treat indeed.
10 out of 10 - ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, now playing in theaters nationwide.