'Rogue One' is everything you wish the prequels had been

The newest Star Wars film is the perfect expansion of a universe we've all been dying to explore.

Caitlin Petrakovitz Director of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
Morgan Little Senior Director, Audience
Morgan leads the teams managing CNET's presence and content across social media, news platforms and more after stints in the marketing world and LA Times. Eventually his last byline on the site will be about something other than Godzilla
Caitlin Petrakovitz
Morgan Little
5 min read

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is good.

Yes, you can exhale. The fears that it would be a cash grab, or fall prey to the same traps the prequels fell into, can pass.

Star Wars fans who've been waiting for a darker, more serious take on George Lucas' original space opera finally have their film. Plus, if "Rogue One" is any indication, fans have even more cause for excitement regarding next year's expected release of the still-untitled "Episode 8."

Directed by Gareth Edwards ("Godzilla"), and starring Felicity Jones and Diego Luna as Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, the leaders of an ensemble cast of rebellious outsiders, "Rogue One" isn't your typical Star Wars film. But that's its strongest quality, and what makes it an excellent bridge between the prequels and original trilogy.


At a press screening Monday night, CNET's Morgan Little and Caitlin Petrakovitz were among the first to see the film, and it exceeded both their expectations.

Those interested in a fully fledged, in-depth analysis can read our official full review. Now, however, you can explore our extensive thoughts on the film below in either written form (seriously, we love Star Wars) or, if you prefer, on CNET's Continuity Error podcast above. (The podcast and our chat below is mostly spoiler-free, meaning if you saw it in a trailer we talked about it. Have no fear, we stayed away from big reveals!)

Don't worry, it's good

No seriously. If that's all you were worried about and here for, you're good, go buy tickets! But be warned it is a dark film.

Morgan: To allay all concerns, it's good. Don't worry about it; we're not dealing with a titanic catastrophe here.

Caitlin: I saw some of the tweets (from those who attended the Saturday Hollywood premiere, like these and these) on Saturday night, and I was cautiously optimistic based on some of what they said, and now I think they were right: it's pretty spectacular!

M: I was expecting them to be wrong. I am always super skeptical of all hype, in all instances, and it was just too... people were too into it. I lived through the prequel hype; I remember when people thought those movies were good.

C: I gotta say, I think "Rogue One" is everything we ever wanted the prequels to be.

M: I still like the dumber fantastical elements of "Phantom Menace." But when I was a kid and you sat me down and told me, "There's gonna be a prequel, there are gonna be a bunch of them, they're gonna take place during the Clone Wars" -- I was in. "There are gonna be Jedi fighting other things and..."

C: And that never happened.

M: Well. It didn't happen well. They occasionally wave lightsabers at things.

C: I mean, it didn't even really happen in the prequels. That's part of why they made "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," the Disney series. That goes way more in depth on some of the things everyone always had questions about.

M: Like, for example, what it's like to be in a war. Which was something strangely absent from the prequels. And which is something "Rogue One" does a fantastic job of. In all the build-up, all the hype, the marketing materials and the interviews, they said, this is a war movie, we based it off of war movies. And it holds true.

A lot of the cinematography is very reminiscent of old WWII footage... from the cockpit of the planes and that rearview, dogfight sort of view you'd see on the History channel.

Can it compete with the original Saga films?

"Rogue One" not only competes, it completes the original and prequel films. As the perfect bridge between them, the new film offers a glimpse at just how hard the Rebellion fought to stay alive, even when it cost them dearly.

Hopefully "Rogue One" changes the way Disney approaches Star Wars and gives writers and directors more freedom. If it's a test case for branching out the Star Wars universe in new and interesting ways, it makes its case very, very well.

As for connecting to the original series, well, the Force is a part of everything, especially in this film. To say that there's no one Jedi in this movie, is technically correct, but the Force is essentially the driving influence of the whole film, and its protagonists. Arguably, the Force is what prevents the "Rogue" crew from ending up as simply an anti-Rebellion piece of propaganda.

M: The stuff that has typically been on the outer periphery of the extended universe -- the weird experiments, the character-focused tangents, the stuff that's not just, "Here's a Force-sensitive person going on a journey with some sidekicks" -- that sort of stuff now has a place within the movies.

For the main series, I think it instills confidence that they will be going in more interesting, more grayish directions for the next two films.

C: I hope so.

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M: Eventually there has to be something that doesn't work in these movies. I can see people not liking this movie, to be perfectly honest. If you go in expecting a rip-roaring, kid-friendly adventure, you are not getting that movie. This is not a movie for a 5-year-old.

C: It's definitely a war movie. It's not a fun little action movie. It's a self-contained war movie that's very well done, but (unlike some of the others), it's not a romantic comedy with action. There are lighthearted moments -- the robot K-2 provides some comic relief at points -- but overall this is the beginning of the darkness. It's a dark film.

M: At the end of the movie, people aren't coming out of the theater cheering or feeling jubilance in the way that you would when you have a swashbuckling, action-adventure film. It's a war movie, and people don't come out of war movies the same way they do fun, Marvel movies.

C: If you want to feel better, just go home afterward and watch "A New Hope."

M: I think this is the best Star Wars movie I've seen since the original series.

C: I don't see "Rogue One" not holding up on subsequent viewings. I think I'm going to find more I enjoy about it and a large part of that is because of the gray area in which it exists. It doesn't deal in absolutes and I think for that reason it's gonna be more enjoyable on rewatches.

M: Another thing that will age super well on this is that with a lot of the set design, the special effects, the practical effects, there's a care and a craft put into this movie that I did not expect to be as extensive.

There are a ton of scenery changes, a ton of classic Star Wars shots of huge alien crowds with a gazillion different races and droids depicted. This movie could birth a thousand action figures.

Above is an abridged, edited and expanded (can it be all three at once?) written version of the latest Continuity Error podcast. (Check it out if you want better quips and some "Westworld" chatter.) You can download the podcast and previous episodes on iTunes, FeedBurner, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Stitcher and SoundCloud.

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" arrives in theaters around the globe this Friday, December 16 (Thursday for the lucky ones). And if you don't already have tickets, go get some.