[This article contains MAJOR spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story]
Let's get this straight, it is possible to enjoy both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and spin-off Rogue One: A Star Wars Story very much. The former was a lot of fun with its likeable, memorable new characters and nostalgia-by-the-bucketload while the latter was slightly more polished and a brilliant film in its own right. Basically, each title had its own thing going for it and that's good.
But when it's so recently come out in cinemas, it's difficult not to pay attention to social media and witness the overwhelmingly positive reaction viewers seem to be having after watching Rogue One. So why is it that the newer film is resonating so strongly with hardcore Star Wars fans and is being considering the "better film"? IBTimes UK takes a guess...
1. Diverse casting
While director Gareth Edwards and multiple cast and crew members have been quick to suggest that Rogue One isn't making a political statement, seeing so many actors of different races, genders and backgrounds on the big screen should not go without mention. It's a massive step in the right direction for Hollywood but never does it feel forced or like there were any "token" casting decisions.
Representation is important when it comes to these hugely-popular blockbusters and while The Force Awakens might have been led by a female performer and black actor, Rogue One really took it to the next level in terms of diversity. Nice one.
2. Opening prologue novelty
When hardcore fans first heard that Rogue One was going to include an opening prologue instead of an opening crawl, they were understandably a little hesitant but it ended up being effective. It provided some interesting backstory between hero Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and villain Imperial director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) as well as her family origins too.
3. K-2SO beats out BB-8 as best droid... just
The Force Awakens' BB-8 was insanely cute and who could forget that flame thumbs-up? But Rogue One's K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, was one of the latest film's stand-outs and rightly so! The talking, reprogrammed Imperial droid was the film's biggest comic relief and he nailed every line. He's pretty badass too... the way he catches that grenade mid-air, mid-conversation and throws it without blinking (if droids had to blink that is)? Awesome.
4. It had its own story
Ok, so there's no pretending that Rogue One doesn't tread familiar territory... Like A New Hope, and Return Of The Jedi, Rogue One's final act consists of a grand-scale battle where the main characters carry out a mission against the Empire that almost seems suicidal. But with Rogue One, audiences arguably experience doubt for the first time across the series, wondering who is going to make it out alive.
It also focuses on completely new main characters too, so nothing feels recycled in the slightest and while there are some "child/father issues" in regards to Jyn and her missing father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), it's refreshing to see someone have faith in their parent no-matter-what... And for them to actually know who they are for starters...
5. The return of friendly... and not-so-friendly faces
From the multiple trailers, it was evident that Galactic Senator Mon Mothma and Darth Vader were going to feature in Rogue One. It was also rumoured that A New Hope character, the Empire's WIlhuff Tarkin, was going to show up too... which he did, as a computer-generated depiction of late actor Peter Cushing. At first, it might have been a little distracting but the effect was undoubtedly impressive and his inclusion in the story felt completely natural given Tarkin's close connection with the Death Star.
His wasn't the only old face that showed up either, Jimmy Smits also returning from the prequel trilogy as Bail Organa, R2-D2 and C-3PO got a pretty amusing cameo and Princess Leia also got the CGI treatment right at the very end of the movie. While Han Solo, Leia, Chewie and Luke Skywalker did appear in The Force Awakens, the almost fleeting nature of seeing all these old characters again made them all the more exciting in this instalment.
6. No lightsaber duels
While lightsaber duels can be epic, they usually involve two, or sometimes three, people only. With not one lightsaber in sight (for most of the film), Edwards and cinematographer Greig Fraser were able to play around with more ensemble-based, war battle sequences and pay close detail to them too. The last few scenes in particular present the galaxy in a way you've not seen before, as blaster rays whizz past, Deathtroopers storm beaches, X-wing fighters fill the screens and AT-AT walkers stomp through rebels like ants. It's truly thrilling stuff.
7. Its bold ending
The Force Awakens was always going to have at least two sequels; that much was known before it was even released back in December 2015 and because of that, the film ended with arguably more unanswered questions than revelations. Rogue One was all about revelations and ultimately makes for one hell of a satisfying final act.
Its last few minutes are quite frankly both bold and beautiful, given that it has the guts to kill off all of its recently-introduced characters. Having successfully transmitted the Death Star's plans from Scarif to the Rebellion, Jyn, Cassian (Diego Luna) and the last remaining rebels are obliterated when Governor Tarkin orders that the super-weapon be used to destroy the planet they're on.
Its got a sense of blissful finality to it and also acts as an explanation as to why fans have never seen the heroic characters in A New Hope or the films that followed. There's something pretty admirable about a film that isn't continuing something for the sake of continuing too, but rather adding value to movies that already exist and have been well loved since the late 1970s.
8. THAT Vader scene
Speaking of action scenes, characteristically self-controlled baddie Vader gets a particularly great one. As it's a prequel, Rogue One ends with Princess Leia in possession of the Death Star plans. Those who have seen a New Hope will already know that shortly before she got hold of the stolen schematics, Darth Vader boarded her ship in an attempt to recover the plans and unleashed a whole bunch of villainous fury on anyone who got in his way... but in the 1977, you only really saw his army of Stormtroopers do the dirty work.
In Rogue One, fans finally see the Sith Lord demonstrate the full extent of his abilities. In the short scene, Vader's iconic heavy breathing is heard from an obscured corner of the ship, while panicked rebels aim their blasters into the darkness. In time with the music, Vader's signature red saber lights up, revealing his imposing and ominous black figure before he storms forward using the Force and his weapon to take everyone down.
For more entertainment news follow us on Twitter @Alistinsider