First off, it's not as good as Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (I'm just kidding; that movie was garbage).

Star Wars. What was once a film trilogy about an intergalactic dysfunctional family called the Skywalkers has expanded into a multimedia franchise that does not know when to call it quits and let the Wookiee win (the answer being when you start introducing talking amphibious lizards who suffer from brain damage).

39 years after the first movie was released and Star Wars has become a prerequisite for a human being; something so unavoidable that liking it doesn't make you a geek anymore and disliking it can contribute to your family disowning you.

With so many films, video games, novels, and comic books to go through, getting into a franchise that is as old as your parent's backwards ways of thinking can be daunting. Thankfully, you don't really need to get into any of it to appreciate Rogue One.

Taking place between the horrible Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and the classic Episode IV: A New Hope, Rogue One doesn't follow some robed protagonist with telekinetic powers and an oversized cattle prod. Instead, it tells the tale of Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso, as she attempts to steal the plans for something called a Death Star which her father helped create. Along the way, she is aided by the Rebel Alliance and a small group of misfits who have as much affinity for moon-sized planet crackers as people who live on planets do.

It's a simple plot, one whose main goal resonates with fans and newcomers alike. What makes Rogue One so special is that it doesn't throw years of lore and jargon at your face. Apart from brief mentions of lightsabers, Jedi, and the Force (which in my opinion, serves as the default explanation for the series' plot holes), there is little that anchors this movie to the main storyline that (last I checked) now involves a lone obese Jedi master and his surrogate daughter.

What it does instead is tell a darker, more realistic tale set in the Star Wars universe. While the previous films had clear definitions of good and evil, this movie shows us the shades of grey that are ever-present in a war (even if this one IS set in the stars) and how people can change.

Jyn's father, for example, may have once been on the Empire's side but has preferred to choose a life of solitude away from a government that is run by a creepy old man in a hood. The same can be said for the Rebels. Though portrayed as the good guys in the past, Rogue One shows that these squatters had to get their hands dirty in order to fight an empire whose main leaders are composed of senior citizens in sharp uniforms.

Though the movie does have its fair share of interesting characters, almost none of them are memorable. Apart from Jyn who suffers from a case of Star Wars protagonist daddy issues, the other stars are only there to move the plot along.

There's the Rebel Alliance officer who guides Jyn to her father. There's the blind monk who overindulges in Jackie Chan movies (how he watches them, I'll never know). And this whole ensemble cannot be topped by a generic main villain whose goal is to wipe out the rebels (just like every other antagonist before him).

But what about Darth Vader?

Ah, yes. Probably the biggest selling-point of the trailers, the asthmatic Sith lord does make an appearance but on a smaller scale. Almost completely disconnected from the movie's main plot, he serves as fan service for those who have a fetish for heavy breathing and capes. While completely unnecessary, his presence in the film does add a certain weight and helps tie the events of this movie to those of A New Hope.

In hinging the movie's success on its plot, the producers of Rogue One seem to have forgotten to add compelling characters. Yes, there are wise-cracking droids, heavy action sequences on land and air, and references to the franchise as a whole, but when your story takes a more grounded, heartfelt approach, then you should at least have the decency to craft backstories that aren't as thin as the crackers you would give an Ewok.

Apart from its wafer-thin cast, the movie also suffers from being a prequel.

It is always a challenge when creating something that precedes the original. You have to make sure that the continuity is succinct, meaning that the characters that are supposed to be alive stay alive by the end of the film and that all the plot devices required for the follow-up are present.

By saying that this movie will be about getting the plans for the Death Star, the producers have already dug themselves into the inescapable sand pit of a Sarlacc (that's the sand creature in Return of the Jedi, in case you were wondering).

In knowing that the sequel to Rogue One already involves the aforementioned plans, all that is left to the imagination is figuring out how the Rebels will go about getting them. It may seem trivial, but there seems to be less at stake when you already know the outcome of Rogue One's efforts.

That doesn't mean that the film is bad, however. You've most likely seen the movie already (Star Wars being the Galactic Empire that it is) and are just here to read my opinions on it.

Rogue One is good. It takes science fiction's holiest franchise on a grittier, more realistic turn and tries to fill in the gaps that the horrible prequels left behind. It actually focuses on the 'wars' portion of the Star Wars name, something that I found lacking in some of the other movies.

While the characters leave something to be desired and the plot's outcome is more than a little predictable, you'd be surprised on just how war is portrayed in a fictional setting. The acting is good, the setting is dark, and you definitely do not need to see its identification to know that this is a movie you are looking for.

About the author: Carlos Zotomayor

Zoto can see your underpants. Mmm... tasteful.

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