I finally made it to the new Star Wars movie, Rogue 1, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The female and male leads (Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso and Diego Luna as Andor) were well cast and worked well together. The blind Jedi (or proto Jedi), Chirrut Imwe, played brilliantly by Donnie Yen, was actually my favorite character in the movie, and his companion/protector Caze Malbus (played by Wen Jiang) was also excellent. Riz Ahmed does a nice job as a space pilot Bodhi Rook. (The rest of the cast was serviceable. Ben Mendelsohn, playing the head honcho of the Death Star project, failed to exude much menace, and Forest Whitaker was wasted as a rebel leader.
As for the story. It does a good job of filling in the back story to A New Hope, but I thought that the movie was about 30 minutes of plot and 90 minutes of blowing things up. The blowing-things-up part was, as usual handled, splendidly. The slight nod to On the Beach at the end was a nice touch. And what is the story? An Empire scientist (Galen Erso, Jyn’s father) has dropped out, becoming a farmer on a distant planet, with a wife and a young child. But the Death Star project has stalled, and Orson Krennic, who’s in charge of the project, turns up with a squadron to Stormtroopers to force him back to work. Having made plan for this eventuality, Galen and his wife (Lyra) send Jyn into hiding; 15 years later, as the Death Star is nearing completion, she reappears. From there, the question is how to find a way to stop the Death Star, after a demonstration of its force against the “holy city” of Jeddah. So the framework is good, but, as I mentioned above, it’s really a 30-minute story.
Now I am very fond of the Star Wars saga, but there continues to be one big thing that bugs the hell out of me. Here we have a galactic civilization capable of accelerating spaceships the size of the Sears Tower to faster-than-light speeds (which would require more energy that our planet consumes in a decade), of producing huge fleets of faster-than-light spacecraft in a variety of sizes, and with weapons that fire energy blasts, not projectiles, and apparently never need to be reloaded. So not technologically backward. But look at the rest of that civilization. Its cities consist of what look like wattle-and-daub buildings (except for the monumental buildings), with narrow, unpaved streets, and bars (which often appear to be the only businesses) that apparently do not have anything like electric light. And it’s not just the Empire that has the ships and the weapons—so do the rebels. I know that the point of the movies is not a lesson in the economics of that place long ago and far away, but it always strikes me as odd. [And, by the way, we never did learn (did we?) what Luke’s Uncle Owen was producing there on Tatooine, or who he was selling to, or what Galen Erso is growing on his farm, or who his customers are. It may be that the ancillary fiction fills in those gaps, but I have never cared enough to try to find out.
That last paragraph, as long as it was, is a side issue. Rogue 1 is a very good continuation of the saga, and worth your time if you were as taken with the first three Star Wars movies as I was.