When a friend asked about ROGUE ONE just after my screening of it, I said, “It’s The Empire Strikes Back, if that movie were a one-off, only ROGUE ONE is darker”…and that’s a good description of it, because this new installment to the franchise, which is a prequel of sorts to A NEW HOPE, could be very easily ruined by description.  It is described on IMDB: “The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow”, and that’s all anyone should really know about the plot before seeing the film.

Gareth Edwards, director of GODZILLA and the indie favorite MONSTERS, helms the new release, which clocks in at 133 minutes, and for good reason.  One of my criticisms of ROGUE ONE I can actually speak to without revealing anything is it takes quite some time to get off the ground.  Although the storyline has a strong connection to the rest of the saga, it has many locations and plot points to introduce in anchoring the rest of the movie. It can feel confusing, or even a bit overwhelming at first.  Have no fear, though.  All that introduction is necessary. The story builds steadily as ROGUE ONE goes along, and by about halfway through, audiences will be well and truly hooked.  Here are ten things to know that will get you excited and curious about ROGUE ONE:

1. While Felicity Jones, who plays Jyn Erso, is featured as the star in all the promotions, she is only one of many important characters in the film.  She is, however, a very strong female lead, and a credit to women represented on film.

2. Nearly every Star Wars movie has an omnipresent and scene-robbing robot.  ROGUE ONE is no exception.  K-2SO offers perfect comic relief and a voice of reason to the proceedings.  Alan Tudyk voices the character, playing him in what strikes me as the perfect blend of C3P0, and his character, Wash, from the cult show Firefly.  He nearly steals the movie.

3. Because the use of the force isn’t as frequent a plot device in ROGUE ONE as a number of other Star Wars movies, when it is used, it’s all the more impressive and memorable.

4. Be prepared for lots of great surprises and elements that help bring the whole saga together.  You’ll walk out realizing the prequel storyline was preordained by quotes in A NEW HOPE.

5. The Rebel Alliance and their fight against the Empire requires for some of their agents to get their hands very dirty.  This film has some interesting moral ambiguities.

6. ROGUE ONE is best seen by parents of children under 10 first, before bringing the whole family.  Some aspects of the plot may be a bit difficult or hard to watch for younger viewers.

7. If you like war movies, this flick is for you.  It’s the war movie of the Star Wars franchise. It’s THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, or THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, but with Tie Fighters and X-Wings and laser guns.

8. There are so many different environments in ROGUE ONE, it can be hard to keep up with all the locations.  That being said, the diversity is great fun to see, and this film may represent the most variety in the saga.

9. As I mentioned before, ROGUE ONE is dark.  Not only is it often visually dark, but the story itself has some very dark moments.  On the other hand, there are also some great moments of humor.

10. The best quality of ROGUE ONE is the camaraderie and steadfast loyalty of the comrades in arms.  In particular, the relationships between the blind swordsman Chirrut Imwe, (who is one of the best characters in the film) and his fighting partner Baze, and Rebellion operative Cassian Andor and his robot K-2SO are quite moving and beautiful.  It is these and other friendships that raise the quality of ROGUE ONE into being more than just an action adventure.

If i’ve left out some major players or aspects of the story in this review, it’s for everyone’s sake.  All the actors are great in their roles, but some are essentially walking spoilers.

I’m curious to see the various reviews on the film.  They may show that, like the film itself, there is a slow build of appreciation for it that comes with hindsight.  I predict there will be many fans who see it repeatedly, because once the first viewing is out of the way, they’ll want to immerse themselves in watching the action setpieces and dialogue without the stress of wondering what’s to come.   Overall, Gareth Edwards and his cast and crew have something about which to be very proud.  ROGUE ONE should rank high on many fans’ lists of the films in the Star Wars franchise.