Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is going into wide release in the U.S. this Friday. The reviews are now coming in, like so many waves of Stormtroopers – and they’re mostly good.
Some minor spoilers may follow.
Rotten Tomatoes certifies the film as fresh, with the score holding at 82 percent after over 100 reviews so far. MetaCritic is somewhat more reserved, with a 66 out of 100, but considered “generally favorable” by its system.
Eric Eisenberg’s review for CinemaBlend was so enthused, Disney/Star Wars has used it in their social media marketing.
He writes about the new movie in glowing tones, praising its balance of old and new.
“Finding the balance between the old and new within Rogue One starts with its conceit and approach, magnifying a story audiences think they already know with an aesthetic that’s fresh within this franchise… a much heavier emphasis on the ‘Wars’ aspect of Star Wars and exploring a gritty, more realistic feel. The combination not only lends itself to a thrilling, fun and dark narrative that is full of legitimate surprises, but even allows the introduction of elements and details that actually make its predecessors stronger. It’s a film that introduces exciting original characters, worlds and ideas while also managing to give us some of the best Darth Vader material that we’ve ever seen.”
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, writing for the A.V. Club, gives credit for the surprisingly dark tone of the film and director Gareth Edwards’ ability to make the galaxy seem huge.
“Returning to the movie influences and more limited color palette of A New Hope, director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) 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…”
“The thing the film has down cold from the start is a look and a sense of mass and scale that seemed to elude J.J. Abrams, the director and co-writer of The Force Awakens…”
“Framing two differently sized objects together to establish scale is such a basic and effective filmmaking tool, and yet so few modern effects-driven blockbusters seem to grasp it. Edwards’ Godzilla did, and so does Rogue One.”
The Rogue One review over at Birth Movies Death is also overwhelmingly positive, teasing in their headline that it is “Finally, A Prequel Worth Watching.” Writer Jeremy Smith elaborates on this idea in his commentary, saying the film manages to find tension even though fans already know the broad outline of the story.
“…It’s an unlikely triumph: a prequel that transcends its fan-service trappings to become a rousing, emotionally resonant tale of resistance in a galaxy bereft of hope. Rogue One is a smashing entertainment, a misfits-on-a-mission yarn that enthralls and surprises despite its predetermined outcome. The audience knows all too well that those Death Star plans are going to end up in the hands of Princess Leia – and, subsequently, on Tatooine, where another hero’s journey will begin. What they don’t know is the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of the rebel forces’ daring heist, and whether or not any of them will survive…”
Grand Moff Tarkin In CGI – A Mistake To Re-create Peter Cushing?
One minor complaint seems to be the use of Grand Moff Tarkin, played in the original 1977 Star Wars by Peter Cushing, who died in 1994. Since his character is one of the main leaders overseeing the Death Star, his role is important to Rogue One, which deals with the massive weapon as its key plot point.
Vishnevetsky explains how the deceased actor was replaced by computer graphics; the reviewer found the results disappointing.
“..[it is] an off-putting and stiff CGI model of Peter Cushing that gets far too much screen time and is destined to become a standard example for discussions of the uncanny valley in special effects.”
Smith is more sympathetic in his review, feeling that Tarkin needed to be in the movie, and the use of a CGI model was likely the best option. He agrees, though, that the CGI looks bad, especially compared to the rest of Rogue One.
“The f/x are so on point here that you can’t help but lament the CG awfulness of Moff Tarkin… Obviously, Lucasfilm was faced with a no-win situation here. You can’t have a film partially set on the Death Star without Tarkin. Omitting him would be distracting, cutting around him would be distracting and, it turns out, presenting him as a CG character is distracting. It’s one thing to insert a creature like Gollum into a live-action situation, and quite another to work up a flesh-and-blood simulation of the late, great Peter Cushing. Lucasfilm probably chose the least of all evils here, but it feels like they could’ve done a better job of integrating him into these scenes. I can’t imagine they’re pleased with their work here…”
What are you looking forward most to seeing in Rogue One? Do you have any concerns? Leave a comment below.
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]