Even though much of the movie-going world seemed thrilled with the last Star Wars film I was quite underwhelmed by The Force Awakens. It was too much a safe rehash of the original film with the barest sprinkling of new ideas scattered about to distract from the dumber elements that piled up as the film barreled along. It wasn't a terrible film but it was far from inspiring or very good at doing more than making fans go squee.
Given that, I was not very excited to go see the 2016 SW offering, but the fact that it was being touted as a stand alone tale and I love seeing science fiction on the big screen means that of course I saw it. Glad I did. This is easily the best Star Wars film since 1980 and the first in just as long to make me actually fear for the lives of the characters onscreen. There is a grittiness and danger inherent in this story that is refreshing. It reminded me that way back in the first two films people died in often harsh ways just as if they were fighting a darkly violent Empire bent on ruthlessly subjugating a galaxy wide population. No fuzzy bears tripping storm troopers, no insane leaps off of impossibly tall buildings and no gravity or logic defying saber fights were present to make the audience wince. ROGUE ONE brings back the sense of danger that makes the stakes of the story feel real. Good guys do bad things, morally hard choices are made and terrible ends come to undeserving people. But, at the same time, there is humor in the film that seems natural to the characters and not wedged into the scene to please children.
It's not perfect. The death of Krennic shows that the reshoots couldn't find a really satisfying way to end his villainous character and the CGI recreations of a couple of characters are only fitfully effective but this is the most enjoyable Star Wars film in decades and is to be applauded for its accomplishment. Yeah, it's essentially The Dirty Dozen reset in SW but it is done very well. I hope that we get to one day see some of the discarded early versions of scenes that turned up in the various trailers just to be able to see why they were deemed less worthy.