Review: Rogue One gives us a new (but familiar) blueprint for big-screen Star Wars

If Rogue One makes anything clear, it’s this: The standalone movies are the new Expanded Universe. Now, I mean this from a wider perspective than just “how the Death Star plans got stolen.” (Yes, there were a number of stories about that in the old EU. I am, full disclosure, happy to not be particularly familiar with any of them.) But this is a movie that has as its basic concept a handful of lines from the opening crawl of A New Hope. And that alone feels to me like a very EU concept.

In short: Ten years ago, Rogue One would have a been a novel or a comic series. There was a big move to this exact sort of thing in the late days of the Legends EU – Heart of Darkness starring Mace Windu (Shatterpoint,) a small-town western starring Obi-Wan (Kenobi,) zombie stormtroopers (Deathtroopers, a term reused here – with a space – for black-clad but presumably not-undead troopers.) These books took big concepts and genres and rendered them as Star Wars. And that’s precisely what Rogue One does – Star Wars through the lens of a gritty war movie.

Rogue One is the evolved version of this, envisioned as a real movie for a franchise that’s only recently revived itself back onto the big screen with a $2B bang. For those that felt that The Force Awakens may have played it safe, well, here’s something entirely different. It’s recognizably the same galaxy – you don’t need Mon Mothma or Darth Vader to remind you of that – but it’s a different spin on it. (The daddy issues, though – those remain.)

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Review: The Force Awakens is everything I hoped it would be

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Let’s just cut to the chase: The Force Awakens is a pretty good Star Wars movie.

Some are saying great, but I’m not sure if a single viewing is enough. (And I don’t do rankings, because that’s tedious.) But the important thing, for our purposes, is that I enjoyed it.

Granted, I’m an easy mark for this one. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for both the special editions and the prequels – I waited in those lines. (Briefly.) But I never approached any of them with anything beyond idle curiosity. They were not a cornerstone of my personal fandom. The Force Awakens is the first brand-new Star Wars film that’s actually important to me. The first film where I was actually a little scared to watch, because what if I don’t like it?

In the theater, none of that mattered.

UPDATE: Please do not leave spoilers in the comments of the review. We have a special discussion post for that sort of thing!

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