Rogue One was Disney's first sign that they were taking the Star Wars brand seriously. Released in late 2016, after the contentious Force Awakens, and a year before the unholy abomination that was Last Jedi, this narrative took us back into the Imperial Era, bringing to bear a totally new cast of ragtags tasked with stealing schematics for an Imperial space-station capable of planetary destruction. Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, is the son of Imperial scientist and Pro-Rebel saboteur Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a former intellectual bigwig that worked during the Clone Wars with former colleague Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendehlson), is roped into a do-or-die mission against the Empire in order to achieve the private plans of this weapon, 'The Death Star.'
Sadly, all these new, fresh faces are quickly killed off in the final battle on Scarif. The blind warrior-monk Chirrut Imwe, to Bodhi Rook, the quirky Imperial pilot defector, to Baze Malbus, the tough as nails insurgent that fought and died a hero. There isn't much to truly say in the way of characterization. While the movie does a wonderful job of giving us individual entities with sparkling and memorable personalities (K2SO most glaring of all), they're not iconic Star Wars titans like Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia. Their deaths were already cemented from the moment this movie began, and not even the Han Solo esque Cassian Andor could truly stand out as a Star Wars franchise character. For a standalone flick, this is a bittersweet, grim tale about a suicide mission meant to free a Galaxy from eternal terror, but in the greater scheme of Star Wars, this is just a group of rebels that made the opening of Episode Four happen.
Special effects and costume design are superb, though I could say that for all Star Wars movies (begrudgingly, even Last Jedi). I especially enjoyed the eye-popping, villainous, pure white caped clothing Orson Krennic, the movie's Imperial baddie, was sporting. While Orson falls into a similar trap as our protagonists, Ben Mendelsohn is still able to convey a serious and terrifying villain, with an eccentric and ambitious side to him. And while that's surely a generic trope for Imperial villains (considering EVERY Imperial officer in Star Wars canon wants to lick the Emperor's stinkly, wrinkled feet at some point in their lives), Mendelsohn is able to characterize those ideas into a refined character that works well for the narrative he's placed in.
Other than this, there's not much to say about Rogue One. The inclusion of Saw Guerrara was cool, and it certainly expanded the Star Wars universe with events like the 'mining accident of Jedha' (spoiler alert: it wasn't an accident nor related to underground mineral harvesting), the apprehension of Death Star plans by Rebel informants, and the creation of many memorable memes still beloved by Star Wars fans today. But Rogue One was important because it was, relatively, a good movie. It wasn't spectacular, but it's still fun to watch, and that was a hopeful indicator that maybe Disney had began listening to their clientele...
Up until Last Jedi came out and destroyed all their goodwill for the next two years, that is.
There's also the final scene of Rogue One, a sequence in which the practically demonic cyborg killer Darth Vader chops through rebels like they're tender salmon on a Japanese hibachi chef's wooden plate, a scene that is the utter encapsulation of why Darth Vader is a legendary character both within the Star Wars mythos and the realm of cinema.
Overall, Rogue One is alright, and a definite watch if you're bored and want to consume some action-packed content without much substance, but with many connections to an overarching universe. 7/10