People talk about the Star Wars style but without deviating we'd never have got "The Empire Strikes Back" would we? People talk about the Star Wars style as though it was always destined to be and eternally defined by the original. What amazed the young me then won't amaze the old me now. People focus too much on the characteristics that make it what it is rather than the fact it was that the combination was so fresh and exciting and it is that surprise element that enraptured people. I don't like the way nostalgia is lazily leaned on. When they made Star Wars, like any film, so much is accidental, unplanned, Lucas had ideas and then through the creative process they evolved, people added their own quirks, things changed. There is no need to worship every element that combines to make it what it is. There was a saying about early 00s Radiohead that they weren't creating what I wanted but creating what I didn't realise I wanted. Some people can't move beyond a 90s sound they associate with their youth, it conjures up memories, but Radiohead just became more Radiohead, and it was a natural progression rather than a desperate one other bands can fall into.
Having said this, screw all of you. “The Force Awakens” was fucking aces. Not a single bum note, with the possible exception of... Nope. I got nothing. After the “The Force Awakens” last year, I was in serious doubts whether to watch Rogue One this time round. No fear in that department. Star Wars is hard wired into my brain, so here I went into the dark pits of the theatre. Last year I could almost hear the grinding of a thousand pairs of knickers twisting around all those sweaty bottom-parts. In retrospect it was no bowel-shatteringly cinema (once those knickers had tightened so far some of people in the audience could almost taste the gussets.)
The trailer made us think that Saw Gerrera would be am Obi Wan / Yoda figure, offering some profound insights ("What will you become... etc"), but he's basically a plot device; paranoid and wheezing, and subjecting people to weird tentacle stuff. I haven't watched Clone Wars, so maybe this is true to that character but in this film it was awkward. Director Krennic was bland. No manipulations or traps, basically just there. Perhaps reducing Tarkin's screen time (e.g. maybe just have him appear in a hologram to avoid a detour into the uncanny valley) and giving Krennic opportunities to demonstrate cunning would have made him more menacing. I liked Donnie Yen but his character and his sidekick were completely unnecessary. Why exactly did they need to put the data bank on high alert when they were already in disguise? These are things that didn't sit right with me and maybe a re-watching will iron them out (or allow me to rationalise them.) Having gotten this out of the way, there is also a lot of awesomeness: The Rebel fleet, the ground assault on Scarif (despite not making much sense), the Jedha insurgency, the character design and costumes (especially Jedha and that asteroid place) and Vader's slice n' dice.
On a side note, I also found getting the grittier, darker side of the rebel alliance interesting; it added some depth and shade to people who are otherwise just labelled 'good'. The Death Star was also used in a way which highlighted its terrible possibilities, seeing the city get destroyed and the mushroom cloud allow for some fearsome and poignant parallels to be drawn with our own history and society.
All in all, exceeded all of my expectations. Couldn't give a rat's arse about the film critics who want to elevate their esteem with excessive analytics about acting and plot, or the people who just want to be different by saying this film is rubbish. The majority of this whole two hours was comfortably the best Star Wars experience that I have had since the eighties. I came out of the film feeling like the franchise had finally been redeemed. Vader, amazing, seeing Tantive IV amazing, Yavin 4 amazing; it felt like we were truly back in that Star Wars universe at long last. It’s up there with “A New Hope and Empire” for me.
NB: The CGI Leah in the last 10 seconds sucks. Seriously, the producers needed to cut that scene. Up to that point it was a doing great in a fannish sort of way, with some stupid plotting and intense battle scenes. In fact, I would say it was one of the best Star Wars films, and then a badly drawn Fiona from Shrek turns up. They CGI'd Tarkin, but that was oddly acceptable, the awful Leah ruined it for me. If you are going to see it, close your eyes for the last 10 seconds. On top of that, Darth Vader looked weird. I think the mask was just not right...Am I the only one to have noticed this??
NB2: All photos taken by me, including some of my Star Wars action figures...I finally got to play with them again...My 10-year old resurfaced.