I was surprised to find the cinema mostly deserted - especially after the full houses I experienced during the first couple of weeks of The Force Awakens' run.
Having watched all the trailers, TV spots and clips, I had a good idea what to expect and, as the film began, those expectations were justified. This was a more 'grown-up' Star Wars: darker, more violent and morally ambiguous. I was loving it and thinking it might well turn out to be my new favourite Star Wars film.
But... it began to feel very rushed. The action sequences and special effects were superb and there was no doubt this was a film set in the Star Wars universe but characters were being introduced and killed-off at such a pace it was hard to keep up and even harder to care about them. We were whizzed at breakneck pace from planet to planet (complete with some slightly jarring captions to tell us where we were) and then it suddenly began to sag.
As the hastily assembled Rebel crew went on their mission to find Galen I began to lose interest and even found myself nodding off. It was all a bit boring.
The pace soon picked up and I got back into it but I was disappointed with Vader's first appearance and completely distracted by the CGI Tarkin. Vader seemed too small physically, the voice sounded off and the dialogue (especially the final quip) seemed out of character. Resurrecting Peter Cushing in digital form was a brave move but the technology is still not quite there and I began to feel more detached from the plot and characters as I analysed the strangeness of his appearance.
As the film moved to its final act, I was wowed by the visuals but, by now, I had no real interest in the characters and their deaths just came and went with no emotional impact. In fact, my mind was wandering as I noticed more and more how much of the previously released footage wasn't in the final cut of the film - including some of the most spectacular shots such as the TIE fighter looming in front of Jyn on the gantry and the beautiful shot of Krennic striding towards the shore surrounded by the floating bodies of his troops. Rogue One had lost me and was beginning to disappoint.
As Vader made his final appearance I was, at last, feeling some excitement. It was a great scene but... that final shot of CGI Leia was a real 'What? Why? No!' moment. Terrible. Less in this case would definitely have been more.
As the film ended, there was no applause and everybody got up and left immediately, leaving me to watch the credits alone feeling more than a little underwhelmed. It is not a bad film. The design and special effects (CGI human faces not withstanding) are superb. The cast are interesting and do a good job with very limited characterisation. But Rogue One ultimately failed to involve me emotionally in the story or characters and, in the end, it kind of felt like watching somebody else play a beautiful video game.