Gee, I wonder which one it was?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the tale of what happened immediately before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. As you may recall, the first Star Wars film opens with the Rebel Alliance fighting against Imperial forces who are in search of plans for the Empire’s new super weapon, the Death Star. Where those plans came from and the cost paid to get them are at the core of Rogue One.
And so Rogue One ends... at A New Hope's beginning.
Over it's debut weekend, Rogue One earned a ton of money AND accolades and both were well deserved. Rogue One is a mean machine of a movie with complex characters brought to life by nuanced acting caught up in an adrenaline rush adventure. Our core group of rebels on their epic against all odds quest is a group of people you really want to know more about.
But.... (SPOILER ALERT!)
Because.... (SERIOUSLY SPOILER FREAKIN' ALERT!!)
Which is very unusual for a major big budget motion picture tied to a franchise that makes billions of dollars not just from movies but from ancillary merchandising and spin off projects. Studio execs want characters who can stay alive, star in the sequels and model for action figures.
But a different course is taken here and Rogue One is more powerful for it. Taking up arms against a massive force like the Empire cannot be done without cost or consequence. People are going to be hurt. Sometimes a suicide mission is suicide.
And as each one of the rebel team dies, we feel the hurt in a way that we can't when Han Solo died in The Force Awakens. (Oops! Spoilers?) There's part of us that understands that Harrison Ford is a big name movie star who is an old man now and probably agreed to do this movie only if Han got killed off.
But the rebels in Rogue One are played by mostly unknown actors. What we know of these characters is not informed by what we know of their actors off the screen but almost entirely by what we see on screen. And what we saw were flawed beings who found a calling greater than themselves and made the ultimate sacrifice to that call. Even the sarcastic droid K-2 provoked a reaction of shock and sadness as he fell under heavy artillery fire, battered to oblivion.
Rogue One also reaffirms what The Force Awakens showed us last year, that a big budget action film can be anchored by a female lead. Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso kicks butt and barely can be bothered to take names. Hardened by abandonment, Jyn has no cause beyond herself but caught up in the orbit of the Rebel Alliance and inspired by her father's sacrifice to fight the Empire from within, Jyn becomes indomitable in her quest to recover the information that her father died for that will redeem his name and stop the Empire.
But while there is a lot that is new about Rogue One, there are some appearances by a few previously established characters. Jimmy Smits returns as Bail Organa who appeared in the prequel trilogy. C3PO and R2D2 have a cameo.
Peter Cushing is back as Grand Moff Tarkin which is quite a trick since Peter Cushing died in 1994.
Really cool spoiler alert: Princess Leia Organa shows up too, looking very much like a young Carrie Fisher.
One returning character we've known about from the trailers is Darth Vader who's living in a castle on the volcano planet that physically decimated Anakin Skywalker, leaving behind the black clad acolyte of the dark side of the Force.