The first in a planned series of anthology films set out-with the timeline of the new sequel trilogy, it has been plagued with rumours of production problems but has also inspired fervent fan love for trailer reveals like the presence of Darth Vader and the top-bill casting of Felicity Jones as the film’s main character, Jyn Erso.
What’s immediately clear from the opening scenes is that this is not some embarrassing cash-in; it’s a confident, gutsy, earthy action movie, one that puts the “war” into Star Wars by filtering the classic iconography through the prism of a modern combat movie.
Jones is allowed to dominate the film. Her character has a rich back story, elegantly sketched out in an opening prologue that sets up a complex relationship with her estranged father (Mads Mikkelsen), whose role in the creation of the Death Star isn’t as simple as it seems.
A droid called K2-SO (Alan Tudyk) has an amusingly droll directness in his assessment of any situation, but this doesn’t feel like a movie designed to sell more toys. On the contrary, it’s perhaps the darkest Star Wars film yet, more concerned with showing the devastation caused by the Death Star than celebrating blockbuster destruction. Yet it’s also one of the most exhilarating, a film with a real sense of how to tell a story – and tell it well.