This is not a full-fledged review, just a slightly extended endorsement, for people who don’t need either.
Last year’s Force Awakens had anticipation levels higher than any in modern memory, including the ghost movie. That Movie That Shall Not Be Named didn’t have to not only extend the universe but overcome an abysmal trilogy that most Star Wars fans pretend don’t even exist; Force Awakens did. It mostly succeeded, but only by slavishly copying A New Hope to the point that I christened it A Newer Hope. (To all of those who’ve made a long list of excuses for why Abrams did it and how brilliant he is, I refer you to Alias seasons 3-5 or the last episode of Lost.)
Rogue One, on the other hand, is the movie Force Awakens should have been. Its few nods to the existing corpus are sly and light-handed, it’s new characters are all worth getting to know, and it easily has the best battle scenes the series has seen. Most importantly given it’s subject matter, the story is brilliantly weaved into A New Hope in ways both deft and delicious. (About half the group we were with went home and promptly watched Episode IV. Including us.)
There are mistakes: a couple of CGI decisions that while understandable were unnecessary (and more than a little creepy), and one that was overly saccharine and dishonest to the characters involved. But they are minor, and they certainly don’t distract from the movie in the clunky way that similar decisions in Force Awakens did.
In a way it’s a shame this one wasn’t the first one released; Abrams might not have felt the need to be so heavy-handed.
In short, I feel a lot better about the future of the universe this Christmas than I did the last one.
As a parting gift, here is my Christmas present to you. Just think of this the thousand times you hear it’s progenitor this season and you’ll laugh instead of wanting to pull your hair out.
Merry Christmas, and may the Force be with you!