By the Way

‘Rogue One’ opens in Hancock County and around the world

“Rogue One” A Star Wars Story” is now playing theaters across the country.
“Rogue One” A Star Wars Story” is now playing theaters across the country. AP

There seemingly wasn’t a lot of fanfare surrounding the advanced screening of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” Thursday night at the Beacon Theaters in Waveland. But, as they say, looks can be deceiving.

No, there wasn’t a red carpet and R2D2 wasn’t there, nor was Kanye and Kim or Kevin Smith — it wasn’t wasn’t that kind of premiere. The theater was filled with something more important than A-listers and Hollywood clutter — it was full of families and friends, most of whom were “Star Wars” fans enjoying the latest film in the “Star Wars” universe. “Rogue One” wasn’t shown in 3-D or “Smellavision” or any of that nonsense. It was very reminiscent of the way I first saw “Star Wars” in 1977. And, I was able to watch it with my best friend since childhood and his family. When I say “childhood best friend,” I mean it literally — we were babies in the same daycare together.

“Rogue One” is the eighth movie in the “Star Wars” universe, but it’s the first stand-alone film, meaning it’s not part of the “Skywalker saga.” That’s not exactly true, really, but I’m not going to fill this full of spoilers and ruin the experience for others.

Director Gareth Edwards’s film takes place before the first “Star Wars.” It’s the story of a ragtag band of rebels, led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and their attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star. If you remember, “Star Wars” opens with Darth Vader boarding Princess Leia’s ship to retrieve the stolen plans.

However, this is more than just a “Star Wars” movie. At its heart, “Rogue One” is a war movie. It has as much in common with “Saving Private Ryan” as it does “Star Wars,” although there are plenty of Easter eggs in the film for both diehard and casual fans of the franchise. “Rogue One” reminds us of how devastating war is — the commitment and sacrifices it requires and the toll it takes on the body and soul. It’s a much darker film than most of the franchise films except for “Revenge of The Sith.”

It also has its comedic moments, mostly in the form of the quick-quipping former Imperial droid K-2S0, who was expertly voiced by Alan Tudyk. You may remember Tudyk as Ann Veals’ father on “Arrested Development.”

But “Rogue One” is still about war and it brings the action. Gareth used hand-held cameras to give the film a perspective from the ground, in a way similar to “Saving Private Ryan.” JJ Abrams also used “Private Ryan” as a template in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” during the first invasion scene of the film.

“Rogue One” is also about friendship, hope and it features the most multicultural cast in the film’s franchise.

And yes, Darth Vader is literally back in black. I don’t want to give anything away about his return, but I don’t think it will leave you disappointed.

The force is strong with “Rogue One.” By the way, there will be a sequel to “Rogue One.” It’s called “Star Wars” and the good news is you won’t have to wait years to see it.