by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
FIRST LOOK: Rogue One Has "Feel" of "Empire Strikes Back" and "Force Awakens"
Lucasfilms/Disney

Let me answer an obvious question about "Rogue One: A Star Wars" story. Most often styled as a "spin off," the time setting precedes events in "Star Wars" (1977). A  solid galaxy far, far away prequel  blasts the battle by rebels against the galactic empire which has just put together it's first planet killing  Death Star contraption.

Warrior, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones)  teams  with  rebel spy, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) for  harrowing on ground and in space battles which after a short introduction, the stakes rise with each passing moment. Sure,  a portion of the elaborate set-ups on the ground resemble "Bridge on the River Kwai" or "Guns of Navarone." The battles in space rival George Lucas early films (dare I say "Empire Strikes Back" ?) with sterling special effects that have grown. Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla)   displays fortresses floating above the ground and large spinning space stations as the most ambitious of graphics, which do rekindle memories from the early Lucas films and  the 2015 "The Force Awakens."

Familiar characters have cameo appearances (C3PO, R2D2, Darth Vader ). They seamlessly flow into the newly introduced rebels that add blind Force centered swordsman, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) , a grunting "Thing" -esque guerrilla Baze Maibus (Wen Jiang), and a wide shouldered  effete droid K-2SO (who provides all the comic relief), who has Spock logic and the best lines of the flick.

An early audience of at least thirtysomethings were greeted closer to showtime by fan types and teens.

Unlike a superhero origin film, "Rogue One" quickly lasers into the "Star Wars" universe after a meaningful first act that establishes empathy for several characters before blasters commence.  The action goes high octane the longer it runs. It's a hard to tear yourself from the screen type where no one finds a good spot for an  unplanned or planned temporary exit.

An assortment of events occur simultaneously so the director never has a dull spot and courtesy of introductions you already have met the major new characters. Understanding the 'spin off' or new 'venues,' not a problem. It's like Lucas went back in time and focused on other developed planets in the 'far, far away' universe.

Felicity Jones rocks as the leading action figure. She's shooting and get a little bit dirty. She muscles her way up a long ladder. She's an inspiration speaking for broadened support.

If anything, there's not enough females on the fields of battle and piloting. Same with those working for Vader.

A rebel leader is a female , and there's another a link to Princess Lea (an unaged Carrie Fisher).

Resounding applause sums movie goer appreciation on preview night.

Ironically, Michelle Obama recently expressed a word that is a major theme in "Rogue One." However, since many have not seen the movie yet, I deem it a spoiler and will just hint here, not reveal and/or analyze.

One note for big screen viewers --- a collective experience has a few built in risks --- spilled popcorn, an infant outburst, or a sudden phone light. At the premiere a responsible young mother handled her infant properly ... leaving the auditorium (so not to continue disturbance) to get the tyke less restless, pausing unseen in an aisle to ensure the infant appeared calmed, and then re-took her seat.  Same procedure when infant cried again. I'm more generous on an audience distraction; the key is a quick remedy.