Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a film that you will probably see, comes out on Friday in the United States. Yesterday, Disney’s Lucasfilm lifted the review embargo on the highly anticipated Star Wars prequel, unleashing a flood of takes—mostly positive, with a few glaring dissents.
Taking place shortly before the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, Rogue One follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and a ragtag band of Rebel fighters who plot a heist of the plans for the Empire’s planetary super-weapon, the Death Star. Trailers for the film showed off its dark tone and gorgeous cinematography, but also attempted to remind us that it was still a goofy Star Wars movie at heart.
With the results now in, it seems Rogue One mostly succeeded. The movie currently enjoys an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes—an objectively solid score, though seven points lower than last year’s The Force Awakens. (While a bad way to evaluate a film, Rotten Tomatoes ratings do encapsulate the critical consensus, if there is one.)
Positive reviews focused on the film’s thrilling, weighty story, which fits nicely between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. But others were frustrated with messy plotting and a failure to fully flesh out the movie’s main characters. Perhaps the most damning criticism, asserted by more than one critic, was that Rogue One struggles to find a reason to exist, beyond the inevitable continuation of a blockbuster franchise.
James Berardinelli, ReelViews
If The Force Awakens was a loving but ultimately disappointing recycling of the original Star Wars’ greatest hits, Rogue One is a more solid and better realized vision.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
The damn thing is alive and bursting with the euphoric joy of discovery that caught us up in the adventurous fun nearly four decades ago.
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
It’s a solid space adventure, teeming with exciting action sequences, peppered with laugh-out-loud one-liners and made all the more memorable for the darker turns of the plot.
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com
This is the first entry in the saga that convinces us that its characters live in an actual civilization, with rules and traditions and a sense of history (and a religion) that they measure themselves against.
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
A swiftly paced, rough-and-ready entertainment that, in anticipating the canonical events of A New Hope, manages the tricky feat of seeming at once casually diverting and hugely consequential.
Mick LaSalle, San Fransisco Chronicle
Rogue One not only is a corporate product, it feels like it.
A.O. Scott, New York Times
It is starting to feel like drudgery, a schoolbook exercise in a course of study that has no useful application and that will never end…The only force at work here is the force of habit.
Richard Brody, New Yorker
Lobotomized and depersonalized, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the latest entry in the film franchise, is a pure and perfect product that makes last year’s flavor, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, feel like an exemplar of hands-on humanistic warmth and dramatic intimacy.
Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice
The script offers a lot of protestations of feeling, but little actual evidence of such: It all seems rushed, as if speed will help make up for the lack of sincerity.
Will Leitch, New Republic
The movie is stultifyingly serious, as leaden and dead on its feet as the infamous prequels.
David Edelstein, Vulture
I found the first two-thirds of Rogue One pretty bad, but I have to admit that the last part caught me up and left the preview audience jazzed.
Stephanie Zacharek, Time
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will not change lives for the worse or for the better, and it will—or ought to—offend no one. Welcome to the Republic of the Just OK.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire
For all of its excitement and occasional splendor, there’s nothing the least bit rebellious about it.
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post
Graced with the first appearance of some of the “Star Wars” series’ most iconic characters—at least in the chronological sense—Rogue One represents an unobjectionable exercise in franchise extension. It’s fine. It’ll do. For now.