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Early ‘Rogue One’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

Variety logo Variety 12/13/2016 Arya Roshanian
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For diehard “Star Wars” fans, an important question lingers: Does “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” bode well as a stand-alone film?

According to film critics, the answer is yes — for the most part.

Early reviews for “Rogue One” have been generally positive. Set as a prequel to the events that happened prior to 1977’s film, critics were quick to note the differences to the originals, noting the absence of Jedi, Ewoks and other familiar characters recognizable to the Star Wars universe.

Critics also praised the film’s third part, which was overwhelmingly lauded as the highlight of the film. Still, others felt the film tried too hard to please fans with overly-nostalgic moments that may not have fit the film’s tone.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” hits theaters on Dec. 16. See a roundup of critical reactions below:

Variety’s Peter Debruge:

“Not only does ‘Rogue One’ overlap ever so slightly with ‘A New Hope,’ but it takes that blockbuster’s biggest weakness — that a small one-man fighter can blow up a battlestation the size of a class-four moon — and actually turns this egregious design flaw into an asset.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy:

“‘Rogue One’ definitely puts the war back into ‘Star Wars.’ It may call itself rogue, but this first stand-alonefeature in the series officially unconnected with any of the previous entries fits comfortably in the universe George Lucas birthed 40 years ago. Loaded with more battle action than any of its seven predecessors, ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ plays like a setup for the events in the 1977 original and, for the most part, does so quite entertainingly.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty:

“‘Rogue One’ is a ‘Star Wars’ film, yes. And it feels epic. But what it really is at its core (underneath all of the gee-whiz special FX) is a heist flick. This motley band of thieves and scoundrels has to nick some blueprints. It’s ‘Ocean’s 11’ in space. And while the movie sags a bit in the middle (where it gets weighed down with exposition), the third-act heist is white-knuckle stuff. It’s when the movie really goes into hyperdrive. There’s a lot to take in in ‘Rogue One.’ So many new uniforms, and planets, and incidental species crammed into the back of the frame, I’m looking forward to seeing it a second and third time.”

The New York Times’ A. O. Scott:

“The great mystery of ‘Rogue One’ — the big payoff, the thing people like me would be pilloried for divulging, the puzzle you will congratulate yourself for solving — is where it fits in with the rest of the ‘Star Wars’ cycle. There are scattered hints early on, and later appearances by familiar characters that elicit chuckles of recognition from fans. The very last shot tells us exactly where we are, and why we should have cared about everything we just saw.”

Empire’s James Dyer:

“At points ‘Rogue One’ does resemble ‘Star Wars’ bingo: here’s a glass of blue milk, there’s a mouse-robot sound effect, there’s that character you like doing that line he’s famous for. Some of it’s clumsy, some of it’s great (watch out for some ingeniously repurposed archive footage from ‘A New Hope’). But like ‘The Force Awakens’ before it, the movie gets better the more it deviates from past triumphs. Unlike ‘Awakens,’ which slid into ‘Star Wars’ cliché as it went, this standalone story struggles through a slightly uneven middle section but ends on a high, with a triumphant third act set on the tropical planet of Scarif.”

Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang:

“Even as it introduces a host of appealing new characters, the story told in ‘Rogue One’ could hardly be more bracingly familiar: A scrappy, determined band of Rebel Alliance fighters comes together to embark on a Darth-defying wartime mission. Director Gareth Edwards, working from a script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, serves up several dynamic action sequences, some pretty good jokes and a few moments that immediately ascend to classic status: Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say that the audience’s breath, like that of one unfortunate on-screen character, is briefly taken away.”

The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde:

“‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ is for the fans, all right, but in that expression’s worst way. Unless you’re thrilled by the idea of 133 minutes of sideways mentions, shout-outs and straight-up references to the original ‘Star Wars’ (or ‘Episode IV: A New Hope,’ for those born after 1977), there’s not nearly enough excitement going on here, much less character, plot or story. A direct prequel to ‘A New Hope’ — it’s the story of how those blueprints for the Death Star got snuck out and into the hands of the Rebel Alliance — this is less a movie than it is an epic of fan-fiction, laden with ‘Easter eggs’ that super-devotees can congratulate themselves for finding.”

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