Star Wars has just got a little more gritty

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A day at the seaside: Imperial Stormtroopers enjoy a paddle on a tropical planet far away

Film: Rogue One: A Star Wars story

Director: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla 2014)

Writer: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy.

Starring: Felicity Jones (Inferno and A Monster Calls 2016), Diego Luna (Blood Father 2016), Ben Mendelsohn (Una and Gun For Hire 2016).

Plot: A ramshackle rebel group led by Jyn Erso (Jones) attempts to destroy a new Imperial super-weapon that has been created by Erso’s father.

What I thought of it: This was my first film of 2017. Coincidentally, my first film of 2016 was the previous Star Wars episode. I enjoyed this one far more.

I admit that this is, at least in part, down to what Rogue One is missing rather than what it includes – such as those moments of clunky dialogue that make you cringe; not to mention the thankful absence of soppy Luke Skywalker – Jones’s character has a similarly tragic childhood, but is a much tougher cookie as a result.

But the film also contains plenty to recommend it. The action scenes are plentiful and exciting, with a more realistic feel to them than in past Star Wars shoot-outs. Even so, the Imperial Stormtroopers always lose despite their overwhelmingly superior firepower; it must be something to do with that pesky Force.

While we are on the subject of the stormtroopers, you would think that the Empire – considering it had enough tactical know-how to conquer a galaxy – would have worked out that shiny white body armour is not the most effective camouflage for its soldiers in a war zone, wouldn’t you? Fine if they happen to be waging a campaign on a frozen ice planet, but star wars appear to be fought exclusively on worlds that bear a suspicious resemblance to North African deserts or South Seas islands.

Conveniently, all of these planets happen to have breathable and life-sustaining atmospheres.

As always in Star Wars films, the wide array of aliens display an impressive selection of furry or scaly heads, but a surprisingly uniform body shape. Two arms and two legs appears to be the shape of almost everything in this galaxy far away. That’s very dated compared, say, to the aliens in last year’s outstanding sic-fi thriller Arrival.

The comparison probably isn’t fair because Star Wars has always been at its heart a glorified children’s matinee action series. Rogue One shows that it can remain true to that, and still entertain the grown-ups.

Retired Bloke Rating: **** Good.

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