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NW Nerd is a podcast with feature stories on geeky interests, as well as talk on current and past issues within fandom and pop culture. 

REVIEW: 'Rogue One' is the Star Wars film fans were waiting for

This is a spoiler-free review of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” An updated review with spoilers will be posted in the weeks ahead.
Nick and Dyer will discuss "Rogue One" in episode 7 of NW Nerd, coming Dec. 21. 

Dyer’s “Rogue One” rating: NER

BY Dyer Oxley

If “The Force Awakens” proved that fans could get Star Wars back – after years of putting up with the three films that shall not be named – “Rogue One” not only confirms that, but further proves that Star Wars has more places to go.

And audiences will want to come along.

In case you’re out of the loop on “Rogue One,” here’s a brief overview. This film is set between the more recent prequel films and “A New Hope” released in 1977. In fact, it’s mere days before Luke Skywalker finds a couple droids for sale on Tatooine. But this is not Luke’s story. This is the story of the Empire constructing the Death Star – the major plot device from the original film. A new band of rebels are charged with finding out what the Empire is up to, what its secret weapon is, and how to defeat it – setting up Luke to save the day in “A New Hope.”

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This film is not going to offer some new revelation, or give the overall story line a push forward. We already know where it leads. We’ve known for nearly four decades. But it does offer something fresh and appealing. Many viewers will be quite pleased with what “Rogue One” has to offer. 

There will, of course, be fervent fans that will object to how the film did not deliver some grand new Star Wars stage, or that it hearkens too strongly to the old feel of the original three films. But "Rogue One" serves its purpose nicely: to be fun and entertaining, and keep the franchise relevant and moving along while the studio works away at the primary film series. At the very least, it will provide plenty of material for cosplayers. And it keeps up the premise that in the Empire, everyone is always well-stocked with pocket pens. 

More mature

“Rogue One” is a Star Wars film for fans that have stuck with the series for decades, and have been waiting for it to grow up with them. It sticks with the original feel – when Han shot first – but is a modern movie. This is for adults passionate about the story, but could not stomach Jar Jar Binks. It is certainly the most mature film in the franchise, garnering a PG-13 rating and earning it.

For example -- while I’m sure Disney is already on it -- this film won’t sell as much kid-friendly merchandise. There are no quirky characters aimed at children. In fact, the characters that serve as comedic relief are not goofy or funny in the immature, childlike sense. Rather, they are witty and bright. You’re laughing at actual jokes, not because some cartoon fell down and got a boo-boo.

The film’s action is what earns it a PG-13 rating. The battle scenes might as well have been scripted for a Vietnam War epic – except with blasters, droids and AT-ATs, of course.

A new hope for Star Wars

Viewers will still have to get past some pretty bad Hollywood clichés in “Rogue One” – the classic “Do/Don’t push this button / pull this lever.” But the film is able to overcome that.

Sitting in the theater as “Rogue One” played on the big screen, it was obvious that a Star Wars ambiance -- missing for years -- had returned. But it was being delivered through a modern lens. People jumped. Laughs were genuine. There was a sense of Hollywood awe that is hard to accomplish.

“The Force Awakens” that kick started a new era for Star Wars is part of the primary storyline. “Rogue One,” however, is within the same universe, but is more Star Wars adjacent. This perhaps gave filmmakers freedom to make a movie that took more risks. It could afford to be its own film, with its own feel without threatening the gold standard of the Skywalker story.

Through being its own film, "Rogue One" is able to fill out the Star Wars universe. You will get a wider sense of the world, or worlds, that Star Wars works within, and people that occupy them. 

From the very first opening scene it is clear that an attempt was made to give “Rogue One” a heavy Star Wars feel, but not be a strict Star Wars movie. There is no majestic opening crawl of words on the screen, for example. Yet, from the start it is clear you are watching Star Wars. The music is another good example. It was not the traditional score, yet still felt very Star Wars.

But hardcore fans need not worry. This is, after all, a film that ties the major story line together. There are plenty of familiar faces, and the force does make a strong appearance. It may be its own film, but works because major players are still present.

I rated “Rogue One” NER (3 out of 4 stars). And I give this rating despite some obvious shortcomings (the previously mentioned clichés) – perhaps because of the hill that the Star Wars franchise had to climb to get this film.