Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a refreshing return to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ...

Another girl, another planet. And another time. Yes, a year after The Force Awakens brought together the Star Wars old guard with a new generation led by Daisy Ridley's Rey, here arrives Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, reluctant heroine of the Rebel Alliance.

She too has Daddy issues. She too can foot it with the blokes in firefights against the Empire's storm troopers and their cruel caped commanders.

She too reminds that being a kick-ass space warrior with a rough upbringing doesn't mean you can't have nice elocution as well.

A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

And she too is the star of a highly satisfying Star Wars film, one which both locks neatly into place as an adjunct to the grand saga - it's a sort-of-prequel to 1977's original - and adds to its vast lore.

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It also works as its own stand-alone film. One which, despite some lumpy pacing in its first half, turns out to be possibly the best Star Wars war film of the bunch.

As well as offering a couple of exciting commando missions, British director Gareth Edwards empties an entire toybox of hardware, a whole alphabet of various fighters and more variations on storm trooper uniforms than you'd see at an Armageddon show.

It feels in its grand finale, where space and land battles rage simultaneously while Jyn and co carry out a mission impossible inside an Imperial IT department, is as much inspired by the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars videogames as much as it was by George Lucas' original grand design.

And blueprints are what it's all about.

A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Those plans for the Death Star which showed its weak spot in the 1977 film came from somewhere. And while we know the result, we don't know the sacrifices that were made. The answers are actually surprising.

Rogue One does have plenty of fun with franchise déjà vu.

There's least one classic old line and a shot or two cribbed from the first film. Some characters too - Peter Cushing who died in 1994 makes a slightly shaky digital return from the dead as Grand Moff Tarkin, the Empire's most imperious general.

He's not the only one to get the time-travel treatment and undoubtedly there are cameos from more obscure members of the Class of '77 among the X-Fighter pilots.

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Yes, as the trailer has warned, there is Darth Vader who arrives in his own cloud of dry ice and is used sparingly elsewhere, but delivers one classic killer scene and one uncharacteristic pun.

Elsewhere, this Star Wars does lack for a few things.

A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

It's occasionally funny, mostly care of Alan Tudyk's perpetually pessimistic and sarcastic droid K-2S0. But it's no laugh riot, nor does it buy into the whimsical space opera of its parent movies.

It lacks for interesting new non-human creatures, though Forest Whitaker's human Saw Gerrera (sort of an Obi-Wan figure to Jyn) is definitely off the planet.

However, it does buy into the Philip Larkin-esque notion of parental influence which has run strongly through the series.

As we see from the opening sequence, Jyn's father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is the reluctant inventor of the Death Star.

He becomes rather wrapped up in his mission due to his ruthless project manager Orson Krennic, who is played with villainous relish, complete with cape, by Ben Mendelsohn.

Dad's work as an evil genius has caused something of a rift in the family. The daddy-daughter reconciliation was never going to be easy.

A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
A scene from the film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

For Jyn it involves (a little too) much moon-hopping in the company of Rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, a somewhat underwhelming presence).

That's followed by an incursion on to the planet of Scarif, a big blue planet of palm trees, white sand beaches and stomping AT-AT walkers.

Jones is great and carries the movie terrifically well. Though as well as the evil Mendelsohn and amusing K-2S0 she's got some colourful help from the likes of Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen as blind monk Chirrut Imwe, whose faith in the Force and staff-fighting kills make him a kind of good guy Darth Maul. While veteran Chinese actor Wen Jiang plays his big-blasting buddy. Bet they'll be bigger than Jones on the posters in Beijing.

They all help make this one-off spin-off a pleasingly different kind of Star Wars film, one that gives a new hope to other tangential takes in the future. Or the past. Or whenever.


Cast: Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen
Director: Gareth Edwards
Rating: M (violence)
Running time: 133 mins
Verdict: A refreshing return to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ...