A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
10 words which create anticipation and excitement in fans the world over and suggest the promise of a special cinematic experience.
Gareth Edwards had the unenviable task of telling the tale of how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans to the Death Star and won their first victory. There are so many ways in which this movie could have gone wrong; lack of tension (we know the outcome), introducing new characters who's fate we may already know and we may therefore not care about, seemlessly tying this movie to Ep IV without shoehorning situations or familiar characters in and, apparently a consistent major concern from fans; no John Williams score. And perhaps more daunting than these issues, how do you make these "Star Wars Story" movies different from the Saga films yet familiar to fans?
Despite this weight of expectation, Edwards has succeeded on almost every level.
Rumours of a super-weapon are circulating throughout the galaxy and the fragile and desperate rebel alliance need to confirm its existence. The turn to Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso who's father is allegedly involved in the development of this super-weapon. Partnered by Diego Luna's Cassian Andor and K-2SO, a re-programmed Imperial Droid played by Alan Tudyk. Visiting the former Jedi stronghold of Jeddah, we learn that Jyn's father has sent a message to the Alliance confirming the existence of the super-weapon, called the Death Star but also confirming that Jyn's Father has included a fatal flaw that could be exploited to destroy it.
Jeddah also sees the introduction of this fully operational Death Star and our first glimpse of familiar yet different as the weapon's power can be adjusted according to needs and the first test leads to the destruction of Jeddah and the narrow escape of Jyn, Cassian and an expanding group of rebels.
The story then speeds along showing efforts to rescue Jyn's Father, maintain the Alliance of increasingly concerned and fractured rebels, steal the plans to the Death Star and win their first major victory.
The movie is not perfect, the pacing is jarring in the first third and you do watch it wondering if some character time was cut due to the now infamous reshoot and cuts. The introduction of some familiar characters is well done but not perfectly executed and will likely date badly.
On the whole, however, the film is a resounding success, the visuals and battle scenes are incredible and the final third is arguable some the best Star Wars moments we have seen so far. Jyn and Cassian are very good characters and we do end up caring what happens to them and the droid steals many scenes.
Perhaps best of all is Vader's screen presence and that final scene... any concerns about the lack of tension evaporated rapidly as my breath was taken away.
Finally the score, it's not John Williams but that is okay, there were enough familiar notes in there to remind us it was Star Wars but it was also different and epic at times.
Gareth Edwards has brought hope to Star Wars fans by delivering an epic and at times exhilarating movie which is familiar but different and bodes well for future Star Wars Story movies. As Han Solo once said, it's a big Galaxy so I look forward to more "familiar yet different" and No Death Stars!