The first reviews for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story seem to indicate Disney has a hit on its hands — in the box office and with critics, mostly.
Rogue One is a standalone story and a kind of prequel. It tells the tale of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who leads other rebels in securing the plans for the Death Star — the same plans that are later delivered to Princess Leia. It's been described as a more gritty, perhaps even brutal Star Wars tale. Here are a few critical takes.
The Verge found it pretty dark for a Star Wars story:
The screwball banter from characters like Han Solo and Princess Leia — or Rey and Finn, for that matter — is so essential to what we think of as “Star Wars,” so it’s hard not to feel like something’s amiss when those kind of exchanges never materialize, or when the darker tone never gives way to the Flash Gordon-style adventure we’ve grown accustomed to.
The Guardian found it "exhilarating" if not exactly new:
Rogue One doesn’t really go rogue at any stage, and it isn’t a pop culture event like The Force Awakens, in whose slipstream this appears; part of its charm resides in the eerie, almost dreamlike effect of continually producing familiar elements, reshuffled and reconfigured, a reaching back to the past and hinting at a preordained future. There are some truly spectacular cameos from much-loved personae, involving next-level digital effects — almost creepily exact, so that watching feels at various stages like going into a time machine, back to the 80s and 70s.
Variety says Rogue One is a Star Wars installment aimed at adults, for once:
There are no Ewoks or Jar Jar Binks-like characters here, thrown in just to appeal to pre-school-aged audiences. The plot is designed less like a flashy video game, and more like a down-and-dirty war movie (think documentaries about the conflict in Syria, rather than stodgy World War II films). And quite a few of the principal characters die, which would be upsetting for young viewers, but provides fans old enough to remember seeing “Star Wars” in theaters with a heroic sacrifice designed to inspire a “Remember the Alamo!”-style rallying cry when it comes time for the Red Squadron to do its business. With all due respect to comic-book devotees, this is the “Suicide Squad” audiences have been waiting for this year.
Wired put a topical spin on the film:
By all measures, Rogue One succeeds; it’s a thrilling, well-told, Star Wars movie that will scratch any fan’s itch. It also succeeds at continuing to bring the franchise into the 21st century by featuring the most inclusive cast to date. But in two and a half years since the first “Star Wars story” was announced (“Spring 2014: Officially a Lifetime Ago!™”), the Culture Wars Story has shifted from talk about female heroines to an unprecedentedly divisive presidential election that saw many of the saga’s themes—faith, repression, the corruptive power of anger—enacted on a global stage.
The New Yorker offered a sharp dissent to the positive reviews:
To the producers’ credit, “Rogue One” offers an international cast that, along with Jones, Whitaker, and Mikkelsen, features Diego Luna (as the rebel captain Cassian Andor, who is Jyn’s main cohort), Riz Ahmed (as the band’s intrepid pilot), and Donnie Yen (as a blind martial-arts spiritualist). But it seems as if the condition for assembling this diverse group is not letting them say or do anything of note, anything of any individual distinction, anything of any free-floating or idiosyncratic implication. There’s none of the Shakespearean space politics, enticingly florid dialogue, or experiential thrills of the best of George Lucas’s “Star Wars” entries (“Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”). The script of “Rogue One” is so flat and inexpressive, the direction of the actors so methodical, as to render these artists nearly robotic and synthetic. The one character with any inner identity is, in fact, a robot, K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, and the only performance with any flair at all is a C.G.I. incarnation, or, rather, resurrection.
Really, with Attack of the Clones? Seriously?
Anyway, Rogue One is in theaters now and set to have one of the biggest opening weekends in cinematic history — no matter what the New Yorker's Clones-loving critic thinks.