Review Round-Up: 'Rogue One' Is Dark and Thrilling, But Might Leave You Emotionally Cold

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 - 1:40PM
Star Wars
Star Wars: Rogue One
Reviews
Tuesday, 13 December 2016 - 1:40PM
Review Round-Up: 'Rogue One' Is Dark and Thrilling, But Might Leave You Emotionally Cold
After a long wait, and more anticipation than for any recent movie barring The Force AwakensRogue One is finally coming out on Friday. And while most Star Wars fans will likely be satisfied with the movie, which is currently garnering fairly positive (if not gushing) reviews, the consensus is noting several glaring flaws. Most ominously, several reviewers are citing a lack of connection to the characters, which leads to an emotional coldness.

The review embargo is lifted, and critics agree on a few things: the effects are as amazing as you would expect, the standalone quality makes the stakes higher than ever before, and the dialogue has clearly been improved by re-shoots with famed screenwriter Tony Gilroy (some of the most cringeworthy lines form the trailer, such as "I rebel," have been left out, although Darth Vader supposedly gets to say an embarrassing "Mr. Freeze-level" pun). Critics also agree that it's the darkest Star Wars entry yet, with a few even calling it the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back:

Opening quote
[Rogue One is] a movie that nails what it means to be Star Wars in seemingly every way, and it's not afraid to scare the bejeezus out of a few kids to get there. Because Rogue One is dark. There's death, there's destruction, there's emotion, and there's struggle. Not everyone is going to make it out okay, and yet, at the end of the film, somehow it's all worth it. That's because the darkness is balanced with the familiar iconography and tone of Star Wars, resulting in a film that gives its audience a truly fulfilling experience. - io9
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Opening quote
Star wars, indeed: the thrilling Rogue One brings a gritty combat-movie aesthetic to George Lucas's beloved space opera, but not at the expense of a thoughtful, emotional story about the foot soldiers who make sacrifices in the name of a movement. Perhaps the darkest, most action-packed Star Wars instalment, director Gareth Edwards' standalone adventure establishes its own rhythm, balancing fan demands with grand, poetic moments unlike anything this cinematic galaxy has previously achieved. - Screen Daily
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Opening quote
Last year's The Force Awakens may have proven that you could still find success, in the 21st century, by adhering faithfully to the Star Wars formula, but it led to a film that was faintly underwhelming-that felt more like a remake than the way forward. But by breaking some of the rules, Rogue One has made itself the first movie since The Empire Strikes Back to redefine the boundaries of what a Star Wars movie can be. The Force Awakens may have reanimated the once-dormant franchise, but it's Rogue One that will give Star Wars fans a new hope. - Slate
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And regardless of whether they loved or hated the movie, critics also agree that K2SO is the breakout character. Far from being the next Jar-Jar, the newest robot is said to be the funniest and most dynamic character in the movie:

Opening quote
K-2SO is the real star of Rogue One. The Imperial droid played by Alan Tudyk is by far one of the best things in the film. His dry sense of humor and brutal honesty are like an electric shock to the movie every single time he's on screen. io9
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Opening quote
Bright spots persist in the otherwise humdrum script: Tudyk's mouthy K2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid, gets the best lines, and his imposing size and great strength are fresh after all the wimpy robots of past Star Wars entries. - Village Voice
Closing quote

But unfortunately, several critics have claimed that the careful characterization ends there. Rogue One reportedly goes very heavy on the classic character cameos, which will please a lot of fans, but also left little time for real character or plot development:

Opening quote
For all its vivid visual imagination, the film left me almost totally cold. And I say that as a man who has cried actual tears at more than one Star Wars movie.

In previous films, the shootouts and the chases and the dogfights often came with their own mini-narratives; think of all the times when characters had to master powers and weapons previously unfamiliar to them. That did more than keep the scenes interesting; it allowed character to develop through action, and stirred our investment in the heroes' fates. Here, aside from a couple of exceptions, it's all blunt-force shooting, flying, and fighting. Nobody discovers themselves, and we don't discover much, either. - Village Voice
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Opening quote
It's telling that Rogue One's best character is a robot... Edwards, a VFX artist turned director, tends to make movies where the special effects feel more real than the flesh-and-blood human beings. Rogue One has a large human cast, but all of them pale in comparison to a wise-cracking droid... 

The contrast between Rogue One and Force Awakens, which delivered both exciting action and instantly iconic heroes, is stark and unflattering. Again, that's the Gareth Edwards touch - a technically deft but emotionally cold one. - Screen Crush
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The film is still getting good reviews overall, but this makes us a little bit skeptical. Hopefully Rogue One will deliver on the positive hype and live down the negative hype, but we'll have to see when it hits theaters this Friday, December 16.
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