Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first standalone movie in the Star Wars universe. (If you don’t count the made-for-TV Ewok pap from the ’80s, that is.) Unusually for a Star Wars movie, the production process was subject to significant rewrites and re-shoots due to purported tonal problems. This is more than a little concerning. Well, the first reviews are finally out and opinion is widely divided. Here’s what major critics around the world are saying…
The reviews for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story have been pretty favourable so far – but nowhere near the hysterical levels of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. On the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it currently commands a “fresh” rating of 84%. (This means that over 80 per cent of critics scored the movie above 59%.)
To put the above score into perspective, Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens boasts a fresh rating of 92%, while the widely derided Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace only managed 55%. However, it’s important to note that these scores include retrospective reviews well after the films’ respective releases. We’re willing to bet The Phantom Menace‘s average score was much higher back when it first hit theatres.
Of course, review averages only tell part of the story. We’ve included a sampling of top critics’ concluding thoughts on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story below, divided into good, bad and middling.
“This spin-off/prequel has the same primitive, lived-in, emotional, loopy, let’s-put-on-a-show spirit that made us fall in love with the original trilogy.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.
“Edwards has created the rare Star Wars property that can be appreciated as a film. And it is about as violent and downbeat as Star Wars gets on the big screen-more downbeat than The Empire Strikes Back, in fact.” – Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club.
“Yes, it’s part of a series that is now eight movies strong, but it also works alone as a movie about war, oppression, a dangerous heist, a daring rebellion and a spark of hope that ignites the final stages of a revolution.” – Britton Peele, Dallas Morning News.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does exactly what it is supposed to do by incrementally expanding the Star Wars universe that we already know.” – Bruce Kirkland, Toronto Sun.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story shows that the “Star Wars” universe can produce authentic adult entertainment without losing a bit of its frenetic energy.” – Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“A little bit “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a little bit “Dirty Dozen” in its mass wartime slaughter, and a pretty good time once it gets going.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune.
“It stands alone as the best Star Wars entry since 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. Yes, it’s that good.” – Ethan Sacks, New York Daily News.
“It was always one of 2016’s most anticipated films and it doesn’t let down the legions who have been waiting for it.” – James Berardinelli, ReelViews.
“It’s a downer. It’s morally tangled. The characters are as depressed as the scenario, and Michael Giacchino’s music can’t make it better.” – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle.
“In the end, this hardening of the franchise seems likely to alienate both the fans and the uninitiated.” – Kate Taylor, Globe and Mail.
“It tries so hard to be an epic masterpiece – with self-important speeches and an insanely outsize orchestral score – that it ends up a laughable parody of itself.” – Tirdad Derakhshani,
“Rogue One isn’t so much a movie as a feature-length promotional film for itself; it’s a movie that is still waiting to be made.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker.
“All the pieces are there … like Lego figures in a box. The problem is that the filmmakers haven’t really bothered to think of anything very interesting to do with them.” – A.O. Scott
New York Times.
“The Star Wars franchise has built up a massive amount of cachet over the last several decades; Rogue One is going to need every bit of it.” – Will Leitch, The New Republic.
“For all its vivid visual imagination, the film left me almost totally cold. And I say that as a man who has cried actual tears at more than one Star Wars movie.” – Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice.
“Almost pedantic in its inoffensiveness.” – Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine.
“If you’re not a fan, Rogue One may not be the revelation that The Force Awakens turned out to be. But it won’t have you wishing for your own personal Death Star either.” – Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“Doesn’t break the mold in terms of franchise formula, and it’s an enjoyable installment in the “Star Wars” canon. However, it’s not much more than that.” – Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service.
“Rogue One represents an unobjectionable exercise in franchise extension. It’s fine. It’ll do. For now.” – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post.
“Seems to want nothing more than for the audience to pat itself on the back because they know what Yavin 4 is: It’s a fun game to play at Comic-Con, but it doesn’t make for much of a movie.” – Alonso Duralde, TheWrap.
“Hard-core fans who thought Episode VII was a dumbed-down rehash will bask in an action-packed film that refuses to spoon-feed information. Mind you, that’s the same reason why the casual fan will be disengaged.” – Mara Reinstein, Us Weekly.
“The movie didn’t rekindle the thrill of seeing, say, The Empire Strikes Back, but Rogue One will loom pretty large in the Star Wars galaxy – if only because there’s so little competition.” – David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture.
As you can see, it’s a bit of a mixed bag with reviews ranging from glowing to hostile. Sometimes, a highly divisive film can be a good thing, but usually not when it’s escapist popcorn entertainment. We’ll reserve our judgement until we see the movie tomorrow, but based on the above it would be wise to temper your expectations.