Star Wars fans have turned their knuckles white awaiting in eager anticipation of this year's franchise offering.
Yet, not without a touch of trepidation; as Rogue One marks the first of Disney's ambitious set of spin-off anthology films, this first entry following a wayward band of Rebel fighters brought together for one improbable mission: steal the plans for the Death Star.
It's been something of a risk for the studio, with the film's self-advertised gritty, war film tone an important step outside of what's come before; a crucial move in expanding the possibilities of what a Star Wars film can be ahead of the likes of the upcoming young Han Solo spin-off.
And it looks as if the studio has (largely) pulled it off; with critics jumping onboard the film's new tone, locations, and characters - though Gareth Edwards' visually stunning world may lack in the emotional impact delivered by last year's The Force Awakens.
Read what the critics thought below.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s all entertaining enough, but I sincerely hope the talented directors the Star Wars franchise has lined up for its next instalments are given room to really add to the saga rather than just repeatedly force-feed us what we already love about it.
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’s nothing in Rogue One that would damage or scare most little children, as long as they’re prepared for an on-screen onslaught of the Pantone colors known as Oatmeal and Soot. And while some Donald Trump supporters have vowed to boycott the film—believing, for some tinfoil-helmet reason known only to themselves, that the ending was reshot post-election to incorporate some subliminal, anti-Trump sentiment—looking to Rogue One for any subversive political statement is a fool’s errand. Its politics are numbingly multi-purpose.
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.
Rogue One, more so than The Force Awakens, is a Star Wars fanatic’s wet dream. Contained yet expansive, nostalgic yet new, it introduces striking heroes and villains and fills its two hours and 13 minutes with a narrative that fits snugly into canon. But where The Force Awakens leaned on a family-friendly appeal with its innocent do-gooder leads and tantrum-throwing baddie, Rogue One satisfies a darker itch. Its stakes are higher, soaring on the bombastic score of Michael Giacchino, which turns iconic themes into hard-charging new arrangements; its battles are more violent and militaristic.
Until now, the good-evil split in Star Wars has been as cleanly cut as well-carved turkey meat: light and dark tidily arranged on opposite sides of the plate. Rogue One gets stuck into the giblets. This is the first in a potentially endless series of "Star Wars Stories" spun off from the franchise’s humming fulcrum, and it sides with the Rebellion, which is exactly as you’d expect. This time, though, the good guys aren’t tousled rascals but a covert cell of self-described spies, saboteurs and assassins, staining their hands and consciences in the struggle.
Taking place just before the events of the first released Star Wars movie in 1977, 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. It's the first stand-alone chapter in the franchise, and not the bridge between then and now that J.J. Abrams cleverly constructed last year with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As a movie, it can feel alternately slow and rushed, cobbled together out of spare parts, and in need of more time on the drawing board. But 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.
After all – if you're dealing with a new set of characters that definitely don't appear in episodes IV – VII, you can do what you like with them without worrying about merchandising or treading on someone else's sequel. What results is a poignant, powerful paean to the Star Wars Universe, set in a world where the best thing you can hope for is hope itself. It's a perfect and complete standalone, but it changes everything. Watching A New Hope will never feel the same again.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies