'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'

Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

Jonathan Olley, Lucasfilm Ltd. via AP

“Star Wars” fan, rejoice: The Force is strong with this spin-off.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a different kind of “Star Wars” tale — a true war movie that will appeal to “Star Wars” nerds (I identify myself with that group) and action fans.

First, there is no crawl in the introduction, only the familiar phrase that ends “far, far away …”

The central core of the story is the Rebellion’s attempt to steal the plans for the original Death Star, so the story is set just before the original 1977 “Star Wars.”

We first meet protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”) when she is a little girl. Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the leader of the Death Star project, has arrived at her home to question her parents.

Jyn’s father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), is an engineer who reluctantly helped plan the Death Star weapon for the Empire. While Krennic interrogates her father, Jyn hides as she is instructed. Eventually, Jyn is separated from her parents.

Years later, we see the now-grown Jyn in a cell, and an escape ensues. She joins Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Rebel fighter. Cassian seeks Galen, who has dispatched a message about the Death Star.

Most of the film depicts fighting, whether it’s on the ground or glorious spectacles set in space. The look of the movie is eye candy all the way through. I saw it in 3D on an IMAX screen, and it was a wonderful experience.

One of my favorite characters, and I imagine millions of other viewers will love him, too, is the droid K-2SO, perfectly voiced by Alan Tudyk. K-2 has a mind of his own, and I love the way his character develops — he’s more than comic relief.

Bear with me for a moment — I’ll get back to “Rogue One.” In the 1960s-80s, a Japanese character named Zatoichi appeared on television and in films. The wanderer Zatoichi, a blind masseur, also is a brilliant swordsman.

I’m betting the character of the blind Jedi, Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen, “Hero”) has his origins in Zatoichi. Chirrut, with his unshakeable faith in The Force, is one of the most engaging characters in this movie; in fact, I think his character could be the focus of another “Star Wars” tale.

Through the brilliance of computer generation, the late Peter Cushing also is back as Grand Moff Tarkin.

And will you see other familiar faces? Of course, but it wouldn’t be fair to tell you more, except to say that the final few seconds in the movie are bound to leave you smiling with nostalgia when you come face to face with a dear, familiar friend.

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