Disney spins the Wheel! Of! Star Wars! and gets “Gotta get that shield down!” as its Obligatory Plotline Rehash in director Gareth Edwards’ take on how exactly the rebellion got ahold of the plans for the original Death Star in A New Hope. (Answer: through some pretty dark dealings and considerable sacrifice.) The good news is that Edwards’ effort to make a storm-the-beach war film produces a tense third act that earns most of its big moments and also justifies much of what’s come before. The bad news is that what’s come before is a clunky attempt at a coldhearted espionage thriller, full of good characters saddled with bad dialogue, tense scenarios saddled with dumb action, and tolerable storyweaving saddled with bad fan service. (Blue milk! Walrus Man! A variant on "Never tell me the odds!" Etc.) Like the rebootish The Force Awakens, Rogue One features tweaks on the old standbys (leads Jyn and Cassian as Leia and Han, the politely snarky K-2SO as both C-3PO and RD-D2, etc.). Unlike The Force Awakens, it also features some genuine freshness: a reluctant collaborator with the Empire, a monk who can feel the Force but is nobody’s Jedi, and a frustrated baddie who just wants credit where it’s due. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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