Is 'Rogue One' really an undercover heist flick? Here's a sampling of what national critics are saying about the latest "Star Wars" installment.

Share story

There is a darkness in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” both in the tone of the story and in the colors used to depict it. Unlike the movie that follows, “A New Hope” (known by most as “Star Wars”), this latest installment is bleak and the casualties are sobering.

The movie, which opens Thursday, Dec. 15, in theaters nationwide, has received mostly positive reviews and it’s poised to be the biggest blockbuster of the year.

In a review for the Seattle Times, Soren Anderson wrote: “Unlike ‘A New Hope,’ with its bright colors and rollicking action sequences, ‘Rogue One’ is bathed in shades of gray, a grim foreshadowing of a joltingly high level of loss among the story’s principal players.”

The story follows a group of rag-tag rebels tasked with stealing the plans to the Death Star, a gargantuan weapon that is the destroyer of worlds.

Here’s what the national critics are saying about the first stand-alone chapter of the “Star Wars” franchise:

Richard Brody of the New Yorker wonders: “Is It Time to Abandon the “Star Wars” Franchise?“:

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. Sure, J. J. Abrams’s movie offered merely effectively packaged simulacra of such values — but at least he tried. The director of “Rogue One,” Gareth Edwards, has stepped into a mythopoetic stew so half-baked and overcooked, a morass of pre-instantly overanalyzed implications of such shuddering impact to the series’ fundamentalists, that he lumbers through, seemingly stunned or constrained or cautious to the vanishing point of passivity, and lets neither the characters nor the formidable cast of actors nor even the special effects, of which he has previously proved himself to be a master, come anywhere close to life.

A.O. Scott of the New York Times wonders where this latest episode fits with rest of the “Star Wars” cycle:

Millions of people will sit through this thoroughly mediocre movie (directed with basic competence by Gareth Edwards from a surprisingly hackish script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy) and convince themselves that it’s perfectly delightful. It’s so much easier to obey than to resist.

All the pieces are there, in other words, like Lego figures in a box. The problem is that the filmmakers haven’t really bothered to think of anything very interesting to do with them.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone hails it as a blast from the past:

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. 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. 

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly says it answers the question most rabid “Star Wars” fans have pondered: “How did Princess Leia come to possess the plans to the Death Star that she hides in R2-D2 at the beginning of that film?”

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.

Peter Debruge of Variety says it is the perfect set up for George Lucas’ 1977 original:

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. Now we know why the Death Star has an Achilles’ heel and how that information fell into Princess Leia’s hands. Plus (and here’s the aspect that should send longtime “Star Wars” fans into ecstatic orbit), director Gareth Edwards has finally made the first “Star Wars” movie for grown-ups.

Justin Chang of the LA Times says the movie is uneven, but thrilling:

A similar sense of dramatic convergence materializes during “Rogue One’s” pulse-quickening endgame, which offers the curious satisfaction of turning an unfinished story — a heroic mission in service of a deferred moment of victory — into a resonant pop-cultural moment. As the puzzle pieces snap into place, with a level of precision and economy that honors and even transcends the narrative foundation of “A New Hope,” “Rogue One” at last finds its own reason for being. For one thrilling final stretch, everything old really is new again.

Want to reminiscence about “Star Wars”? Look back at this timeline.