Well, an old boss of mine and I had a detailed conversation of how Disney would change Star Wars to the worse and eventually ruin the brand playing it out. So far, this film is definitely a keeper. One of the troubling changes you notice is the lack of the iconic scrolling text saying the chapter and what it is about. Of course, via the advertising we know that it is between Episode 3 and 4, but 100 years from now maybe people won't know. Besides since it fits between episodes, it doesn't make sense possible to state Episode 3.5. Another change that grates on my nerve was labelling each star system they visit and not even in a Star Wars font. Lucas would never have labelled all the planets (the film script and visuals do this) its repetitive and stupid in the Star Wars world. Another grating thing was calling it a Star Wars Story. What idiot in marketing decided to do this? Every movie every made is a "story"; it's completely redundant.
One character they introduced was K-2S0, an imperial robot converted to the rebel cause, which is a bit endearing. The lines for this character were not quite as clever as the C3PO or R2D2 lines of the other 6 episodes. He starts to quote the statistics for survival and just says they will be high. C3PO would have said they were 1 to 20,000 or something similar. The robot is a bit too human like in the script, but fun to watch.
In most Star Wars, leaving Episode IV as the masterpiece, there is a lengthy buildup in the story line of the main characters. In this one some of the beginning like the farm scene is well-vetted, but then skips too much to the adulthood of the main character Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones. It would have been nice to see more of the design of the Death Star by Gelen Orso, played by Mads Mikkelson and how he plans to deceive Darth Vader and the Emporer in its final design and how he misses his daughter. They cover this, but less dramatically than could have been done. Another quick scene was the how Saw Guerrera played by Forest Whittaker raises Jyn and why they having a falling out, it's a bit unclear as the glaze over this transition to get to the battles. I think a bit more plot development here and less on the action scenes could have been developed more.
The main villain is the head lead on the building of the Death Star with cameos by Darth Vader. I think the last Star Wars VII captures the villain much more captivatingly. The best villain that we see somewhat briefly is the retun of the Grand Moth Tarkin played by Guy Henry. Peter Kushing, the original Moth Tarkin already passed, so they needed a replacement. I really enjoyed Guy's line and portrayal of this character. The portrayal of Darth Vader is decent, but I think the lines could have been better or even had him more in the plot. The Emporer doesn't even make an appearance in the film, but really isn't necessary to the plot as he wasn't in Episodes IV and V either. My preference would have been more thorough build in the plot of the conflict of Gelen Orso as he is the reason that Episode IV is possible basically.
What did you think of the sets?
I think here the film really shines as they portray the Star Wars universe very well. One thing is though is that they are rehashing many of the machines of Episodes I-VI and not designing more. I think it makes sense for the most part as they add quite a few into the mix we have never seen like red hooded monks, etc. The jackets, ships and sets are trully amazing and will blow you away. I think though they could have reduced the number of planets the movie takes place as it seems like too many.
One character they have is Chirrut played by Donnie Yen. He is one of the guardians of one of the few remaining temples that has a secret supply of the crystal used in light sabers and the Death Star. He captures what remains of the force in the movie. Basically, as all the jedi were massacred in Episode III and the remaining Jedi are in hiding, they have lost all connection to the force. Chirrut captures the spirit of the force untrained using it to defeat enemies. It is interesting that Darth Vader has not sensed this character and try to capture him to be converted to the dark side. Only Darth Vader has any master of the force in this movie. Dark times indeed, which play well into Episode IV. All in all, I think the story is great and timeless.