(watched in flight)
I wasn’t expecting much, given the generally mediocre reviews, but I thought this Star Wars prequel was surprisingly good. The story is simply told — young girl abandoned in childhood searches for her father, who has an important secret. She meets other people, who offer to help her, and her quest winds up helping them as well.
As may be apparent, the movie doesn’t stray far from the George Lucas universe. There are new planets and new characters, but they’re mostly just variations of people and places we’ve seen before. On the other hand, the George Lucas universe is no bad place to be, And if the movie doesn’t have some of the thrilling flights of imagination of Lucas at his best, it also avoids the moral confusion and weird storylines of Lucas at his worst.
The special effects are pretty good, but not over the top, and work well even on the small screen. There are enough references to previous Star Wars movies (the blue milk, dancing holograms, some iconic lines) to make long-time fans happy, but enough new plot twists that those fans won’t think they’ve seen this movie before (looking at YOU, Force Awakens).
What sets this movie apart from most other Star Wars films, though, is the presence of quality actors. Felicity Jones is very good as the protagonist, and the supporting cast, including outstanding actors like Mads Mikkelson and Forrest Whitaker, is excellent as well. The movie gives a glimpse of what the Lucas prequels might have been like with a more actor-focused director.