Another year, another new Star Wars movie. This is the way for the next decade or more we can believe. So this new Star Wars connected film has been out on release for a couple of weeks, but I often wait a little while until the crowds have died down. In a good way, I went along to a local cinema on January 1st, a great way to bring in the new year I would say.
We have had a year of build up and hype again but this time it has been a little different. This new movie is not a strict ‘important’ Star Wars event movie-or not to some people, as it is the first ‘spin-off’ film. It takes place in the space world, the same time-line of the original three movies, but it is not a sequel and not really a prequel either.
From the pictures and stills and then the trailers for the related movie, I was increasingly interested in just what kind of movie it would turn out to be. It features another group of entirely new characters-although does include and add in a few well loved ones-like The Force Awakens. The difference here is that these characters will not continue on in another sequel after this film. Most clued up Star Wars fans will be very aware of this.
So as this is a stand alone separate but related Star Wars movie, does it matter? Do we care about the story or characters this time?
That answer is yes, very much so. I had been very interested in two things really before seeing this. One was the director chosen being Gareth Edwards who has in a short time build up a reputation for really great sci-fi films with epic effects combined with great storytelling and acting. The second point of interest was the new female lead-Felicity Jones. With The Force Awakens we did get a great young female lead, which was excellent. Here with this new film, it had been hinted at that the story would be more mature, sombre and with an older female lead, I thought it could be much more interesting and good to see.
From the first couple of minutes, the direction had pulled me in. It looked superb, it really did. The musical score in new and different although does bring in small pieces of the well known Star Wars score here and there. We are introduced to the character of young child Jyn, which feels very familiar but is told well in a few minutes. Cut to a few years later and adult Jyn (Felicity Jones) escapes captivity and goes out on a bold adventure with a group of defiant yet interesting characters.
It does often feel a lot like the first three original movies, and it is visually styled that way very carefully, even more so than The Force Awakens which works in the time-line order or events and the films.
Yes, as you may have heard now, in some ways it is almost as good as or better than Empire Strikes Back. Even so, this is not a perfect or flawless movie. After the first hour or less it does slump and slow down and the familiarity of the classic Star Wars movies echoed in a number of the scenes and visuals perhaps does not help this movie. That does not ruin it all the way by any means, and it does continue on and I would say that it very much is as great as those early movies and so then it is a real shame when it comes to an end and we find that we will not see these characters again. There are some great dialogue lines regularly, a really great new sarcastic droid, fine supporting actors involved including Riz Ahmed and Forrest Whitaker. We also see a very powerful and aggressive Darth Vader back on the big screen and this does impress I must say.
There are some surprises, some great acting, fantastic visuals among the best ever seen in any Star Wars movie.
This next December will bring the next Star Wars sequel in the ongoing series but I might be looking forward much more for the next stand-alone film like this fine example. The Force elsewhere is strong.
James E. Parsons is author of SF novels Orbital Kin, Minerva Century both available from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Nobles and other good bookshops internationally.