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, which opens Thursday night as the first in a series of new “anthology films,” each successive episode, whether sequel or prequel, has faithfully repeated the same rituals.

There’s the prefatory incantation (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

”); the blaring brass of a John Williams score; the expository opening crawl; the recitation of the “bad feeling about this”; and, finally, a climactic confrontation with a black-caped Sith, usually in the form of a lightsaber battle.

At least three characters must appear in each film: C-3PO, R2-D2, and—one way or another—Darth Vader.

And aside from the Joseph Campbell–prescribed death of a mentor, all the principal heroes must survive.

This formula was established by the original, and it’s been frozen in carbonite ever since.

Template from its opening shot, which forgoes the brass burst and the opening crawl for a jarring strike on the strings and an immediate leap into the action.

This opening to a new “Star Wars story” (as the subtitle puts it) may be greeted by some as heretical, but it makes sense.

After all, the plot of the midquel, which takes place between the end of the prequels and the beginning of the original It is a period of civil war.

Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

.) Her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), helped design the Death Star but deserted before its completion.