First Hit: Could not get into the story nor did I think it was well thought out.
A franchise series of films is always challenging. Even one of the best, Star Wars, has had some clunkers or at least clunker moments; think Jar Jar Binks in “Episode I – The Phantom Menace”. Where does this film fit with the series? My guess is that it probably fits after “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “Episode IV: A New Hope”.
Was this film needed to make the series whole? Probably not, but it was a way for Disney to make it a key component in the series as this tells the bit about the Princess Leia (Ingvild Deila) and the Rebel Alliance getting the plans to Death Star. As we know in later episodes Leia implanted these plans into R2-D2.
Although this was an OK idea, the film fell apart in one of the later opening scenes where Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), his wife Lyra (Valene Kane), and their child Jyn (Dolly Gadsdon – youngest, Beau Gadsdon – young, and Felicity Jones - adult) were found by agents of the Empire hiding on a small deserted planet Lah’mu.
I do not know how, but during the dialogue between Galen and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) about their involvement with the design and use of the Death Star, I lost interest. Maybe it was the convoluted opening, the rip off use of the opening for the first Star Wars film or maybe it was simply not interesting enough.
My hope picked up again when Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whitaker) finds young Jyn and takes her to safety. Here I thought, OK with Whitaker we'll get some meat into this storyline, but again this fell short. I've always been able to count on Whitaker to make something better, but his role wasn't critical and I fell back into unengaged and uninterested in what was taking place on the screen.
The story leaps in time to find Jyn (now played by Jones) being an important and, at times, a despised member of the Alliance because her father's role in completing work on the Death Star. Her status as leader or rebel of substance happens, not by anything she does, but because her father sends her a message, through a hologram, that he’s made a back-door flaw in the Death Star which the Alliance can use to destroy it.
By this time the audience is treated to an elongated battle which is poorly choreographed. There are some nice CG effects, but the acting, storyline and dependence on battle scenes to create action and interest weighed this film down.
Jones does not have the chops to make a believable rebel character or leader. There is a lack of innate strength of spirit which her acting cannot overcome that makes her a weak link in this film. Whitaker is wasted in this role as a wise elder warrior for the Alliance. Mikkelsen is good as Galen, but the role is limited by the script. Diego Luna (playing Cassian Ando Rebel Intelligence Officer) gave it his best, but the script and story didn’t have this character develop. His big turning point moment is when he’s supposed to kill Galen (unknown to Jyn); what does he choose? Donnie Wen (as Chirrut Imwe) playing a blind Jedi wanna-be was OK and provided some amusing moments. Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy wrote a weak script and the lack of direction, thereby creating an uninteresting film with characters we don't care about, falls on Gareth Edwards.
Overall: This film feels like a throwaway created for money because all the main characters die, their story ends, and it filled a small gap in the Star Wars saga sequence.