Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ★★★

The opening scene of Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One” is exhilarating.

It begins with a gorgeous panoramic vista of a remote and distant planet, a magical place where the ocean nudges up against a fog-swaddled valley. An angular, bird-like aircraft pierces the gray horizon and lands on the leafy ground below. For those who live in this place, the ship’s arrival doesn’t appear to be entirely unexpected — a scraggly fugitive named Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is seen whispering four ominous words to his wife: “He’s come for us.”

A phalanx of soldiers step on to the grass, their leader, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) urging them forward. Snarls of wind kick up the white hem of his Imperial cloak in a wide shot that combines the tactile beauty of George Lucas’ original trilogy with the mythic Western portent that defined the first third of “The Force Awakens” (or “Once Upon a Time in the West,” for that matter). The dialogue is terse and electric; the characters brim with pathos that seems worthy of the majestic world they inhabit. This is “Star Wars” not as we know it, but as we remember it — this is “Star Wars” as we’ve always wished it to be. The possibilities are endless. The potential is as infinite as the stars in the galaxy. Finally, a “Star Wars” movie that doesn’t have to be responsible to the rest of them.

Correction: Finally, a “Star Wars” movie that shouldn’t have been responsible to the rest of them.