This movie is out on home video now and I've finally seen it. My first impression is "this sure feels like Star Wars", which is important because The Force Awakens didn't click that way at all. Rogue One makes The Force Awakens look like the Kylo Ren of the franchise; a gawky "true heir" outwardly aping the super-cool hero ancestor so hard that everyone can see it, yet fudging the substance and thereby missing the point.
This movie does it better, because not only does it look a hell of a lot more like Star Wars, it manages to do so while being its own thing. It nails the scope, characterization, and imagery. This movie is Rey, it doesn't need
Kylo's shit because it very clearly just lives in the Star Wars setting and that's more than enough.
...And that's why it didn't need cameos from R2, Threepio, "I don't like you either" guy, and an animated Peter Cushing. (Seriously, the actor who played Tarkin on set already looks and sounds like Cushing, just save us all a lot of trouble and give him an old man makeover.) There are plenty of other characters, droids, vehicles, objects and shots making cameos anyway. The stormtroopers and X-Wings alone reminded me of the images burned into my memory from the original trilogy. Someone was paying very
close attention to the way they looked, sounded and moved. This movie nails the "body language" of Star Wars, and I noticed.
There's only a few things I didn't like.
- What's up with Saw's pet hentai squid? That thing's just one step too far and it doesn't even have lasting consequences.
- So someone put that fatal flaw in the Death Star on purpose? I dunno, I always thought it worked fine as what it was in the original film; a genuine oversight that slipped through the cracks and never got noticed or fixed because the Empire thinks it's invincible, and the Rebels find it because they're desperate and clever, not because they were tipped off.
- Tarkin's cgi head might be a perfect re-creation of Peter Cushing but somehow it has all the telltale flourishes of animation whenever it moves. It doesn't gel with the real actors it's playing off of.
- Darth Vader's debut moment in this film is surprisingly chilling, more so than it has ever been since all those other times in the cartoons and videogames they brought him back to make up for Revenge of the Sith... but the guy playing Vader in this movie has just a little too much fun screwing with Krennic and the trademark "I don't have time for this shit" finger-pointing is a little overplayed. (He makes up for it with that little scene at the end where he slaughters all the rebel soldiers, though. Everyone knew in the back of their minds that this is how Vader rolls in a fight, and the movie did not disappoint.)
Movies these days are very well-practiced at "thrill first, be actually good later", so my opinions may change, but regardless of its true quality over time, it did give me everything I wanted from a Star Wars movie and didn't feel like it was trying too hard or squandering it.