So Rogue One is here and we've already published our spoiler-free review. If you want to stay spoiler free leave now and read that!
Really. There are spoilers below.
Yes there DEFINITELY are...
So where to start - for a film where we know the ending, almost literally there are so many surprises that Rogue One almost feels like something that could go either way. We know Jyn and her fellow rebels succeed in recovering the Death Star plans and it was always likely that they'd die in the process but even right up until the final moments we never feel like what we KNOW will happen is going to happen and we were kind-of hoping that Jyn might still be out there somewhere fighting her own battle against the Empire.
The promo trail revealed that Darth Vader would be involved but there were other faces that showed up that weren't signposted. Ben Mendelsohn's Krennic was always placed front and centre as the big bad, but it was the moment that Grand Moff Tarkin appeared that raised the hackles on our necks. So, the CGI recreation of the great Peter Cushing was stunning to look at and so close to sidestepping the uncanny valley that we're willing to overlook it - it's great that the character became such a strong force in the film and added some solid background to one of the most overlooked characters of the original Star Wars.
Then there was Jimmy Smits Bail Organa - this was hinted at by Smits himself a few weeks ahead of release and we think this was a mistake. His silent revealed on Yavin 4 raised a grin and he became instrumental later on.
It was nice to see R2D2 and C-3PO on Yavin too - but we got the feeling they'd been left behind when the Rebel fleet departed for Scarif; we know this wasn't the case due to the fact that they're on the Tantive IV at the beginning of Episode IV but it just felt like a tiny plot hole.
Then there was the last moment of the film where Leia appears. She even had more dialogue than Luke did in The Force Awakens (by one word!). Again, the CGI work here was nearly flawless with only the slightest hint that we were seeing effects here and not real flesh.
There were other great cameos too - one that raised a grin was Ponda Baba (or Bum Face as he was known in my childhood years) and his companion Dr. Cornelius Evazan on Jedha; they clearly escaped Jedha and made it as far as Tatooine before their fateful encounter with the wrong end of Obi-wan's lightsaber.
Two scenes - that's all Vader had to make an impression here and each one was essential. His first reveal - sans-suit - in the bacta tank was chilling, reminding us just how badly injured he was on Mustafar. It appears he has made his home on the volcano planet, in the years since Revenge of the Sith. His face-off with Krennic hinted at his favourite future past time of force choking those who don't do what he wants. It is however that final sequence that shows just how powerful he is - there's nothing as brutal in the original trilogy as the moment he activates his lightsaber and cuts through the rebels scrabbling to get the Death Star plans to Leia. Using the force and his saber to kill and maim dozens of rebel soldiers we finally get to see just why he's so feared.
The Battle on Scarif
As hinted, we kind of knew that the spies wouldn't make it, but to see how quickly and brutally they were cut down brought a lump to our throat. There were moments of pure emotion as the characters we were invested in met their fates - even reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO has a hero's death.
One thing that was a little disappointing was that Jyn wasn't the one to exact revenge on Krennic; cornered at the top of the Imperial installation by Krennic, she's saved by Andor who survived his tumble in the records tower on Scarif. It's Andor's gun and hand that takes Krennic out of the picture depriving Felicity Jones' lead of the opportunity to kill him herself. In fact, Luna's Andor stops her delivering a final blow meaning Krennic actually dies through the Death Star's firing on the installation. It might have been more fitting if it was she who shot him down and made the decision to leave him to die off her own back.
There have been arguments that the film needed a strong male lead to balance things out - sorry but this is complete bollocks and anyone calling for this has their head so deeply buried in a lower orifice that we're surprised they were able to watch any of the film. Diego Luna is as close to a male lead as the film has or needs and having Felicity Jones take top billing alone is the right choice - it's very much her story and to dilute that in the name of balance would be insulting.
When Luke arrives on Yavin 4 to help take down the Death Star we get very little hint that the Rebel Alliance is anything more than a wholesome group of freedom fighters. Rogue One reveals that the truth is far more disturbing. The first hints we get that they're not quite as good as we thought are when Cassian Andor kills his informant rather than risk him falling into rebel hands in the first few scenes of the film. We then discover that Saw Gerrera is considered too militant for the Alliance and has been exiled to fight his own extremist fight against the Empire - we get hints of this when we're on Jedha and we see his followers attack the Empire there in a crowded market square putting civilians and children in harm's way.
Later Luna is tasked, behind Jyn Erso's back, to kill her father and Death Star lead scientist Galen Erso if he gets the opportunity. It's only when he discovers that Galen is attempting to help the Rebellion that he has second thoughts and defies his orders.
There are clear disagreements in the Alliance's ranks and it's only Jyn's intervention that unites them under a common aim in the recovery of the plans; even though they turn her down her subsequent actions drag them into action anyway.
The prelude to Star Wars
We knew we'd end the film having lined up the events in Star Wars but just how close we get is exciting in itself. As the Tantive IV manages to escape before being boarded by Vader we see the corridors and soldiers that open the original film. It's clear that we're seeing the moments before the chase that ends over Tatooine.
Not only that, we find out that it's no mistake that the Tantive IV is over Obi-wan's home of exile - that was the plan all along with Bail Organa earlier informing Mon Mothma that he'll be dispatching his daughter to bring the last Jedi back into the fight - right before Organa himself heads back to Alderaan for the last time.