Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2016. Lucasfilm, Allison Shearmur Productions, Black Hangar Studios, Stereo D, Walt Disney Pictures. Story by John Knoll, Gary Whitta, Screenplay by Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, based on characters created by George Lucas. Cinematography by Greig Fraser. Produced by Simon Emanuel, Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur. Music by Michael Giacchino. Production Design by Doug Chiang, Neil Lamont. Costume Design by David Crossman, Glyn Dillon. Film Editing by John Gilroy, Colin Goudie, Jabel Olssen. Academy Awards 2016. North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2016.
A story that takes place between episodes of Star Wars films sounds like the worst exploitation, the kind of garbage designed to pile up the coffers in George Lucas and Disney’s treasure chests. The fact that it’s directed by one of the least intelligent of the recent filmmakers dealing in science-fiction doesn’t bode well either, so imagine a viewer’s relief to discover that neither of these negative forebodings cause any trouble in this wonderful adventure. Felicity Jones is solid in the lead role as the scrappy daughter to a weapons designer (Mads Mikkelsen) who is working for the Empire on their Death Star project. Jones, Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed, plus a smart-ass robot who provides the films’ best comedic moments (voiced by Alan Tudyk), team up to steal the blueprints for the massive weapon that will eventually help the Rebellion destroy the evil regime’s deadliest weapon in Episode IV. The high standard of production design and visual effects that we have come to expect from this series is here, along with terrific dialogue, while the only drawbacks are a slightly dull plot (it’s basically one excuse after another to switch locations) and a bit too much emphasis on tragedy (mainly to accommodate the reason why you won’t see many of these characters in the movie that takes place next but was filmed thirty-nine years ago). Peter Cushing is skillfully recreated in a supporting role; the brief appearance by a digitally recreated Carrie Fisher is less successful.