The new one-off “Star Wars” movie “Rogue One” takes place after the events of the prequels, and just before the events of the original 1977 “Star Wars.”
Quality-wise, it’s right in the same place; it’s better than the prequels, but not quite as good as the original trilogy or last year’s “The Force Awakens.”
Director Gareth Edwards, whose “Godzilla” reboot was met with polite, if not exactly enthusiastic, response in 2014, delivers about the same level of filmmaking here.
The cinematography tends toward dreary grayscale, rather the brightness and boldness of the other “Star Wars” films, and while the editing on the series so far has been crisp, the “Rogue One” cutting is muddier.
The story, about that rebel soldiers that risked their lives to steal the Death Star plans so that Luke Skywalker could blow it up, seems simple enough.
But the screenplay, by Chris Weitz (“Cinderella”) and Tony Gilroy (the “Bourne” films) — and based on a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta — starts off thickly convoluted.
We visit four different planets, only one of which, Yavin 4, will be recognizable to fans.
Dozens of characters and space-things feature fancy, made-up space-names, and are all introduced at once.
Betrayals and arguments and speeches follow, but essentially it all comes down to Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of the designer of the Death Star, who, out of a sense of devotion and duty, built in a hidden weak spot.
With the help of a sullen rebel soldier Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), she must retrieve the plans and get them to the rebel leaders.
The movie then stretches this simple task into a needlessly complex one.
Jyn and Cassian never look like they’re having much fun.
Much of the humorous byplay in other “Star Wars” films is absent here; and the film’s only laughs are heaped upon the shoulders of a comic relief droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk).
At least he has a good joke about excessive explosions.
Most of the nods to the original film are great fun. Edwards re-creates them with meticulous dedication, the exception being a creepy, computer-generated version of Grand Moff Tarkin, resembling actor Peter Cushing (who died in 1994).
In these moments when Edwards is clearly re-experiencing the joy of the very first film, “Rogue One” comes alive.
It’s also a thrill to watch Hong Kong martial arts star Donnie Yen (“Iron Monkey,” the “Ip Man” trilogy) use his own brand of Force to dispatch several stormtroopers.
Though it’s certainly worth a look, “Rogue One” is a minor “Star Wars” story. Perhaps it might have been better treated as a minor film — shorter, brisker, and with less hype.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen
Written by Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Running time 2 hours, 13 minutes