It’s been 362 days since there was a new Star Wars film, and for most, that’s 361 days too many. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the second film released after Disney’s acquisition of the sci-fi epic saga and the first to not star a whiny Skywalker or Solo. It’s also the first Star Wars prequel to not absolutely suck.
Set just before 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, the film stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, a Rebel fighter with a knack for getting up to no good. She’s been tasked with a secret mission: steal the blueprint of the Empire’s new superweapon (aka the first Death Star), which was built by (Spoiler!) Erso’s dad, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen). Jyn can’t do all this rebelling alone, so along for the ride is Clone Wars vet, and extreme Rebel, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and brand new Star Wars characters that include Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), blind-monk Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and K-2S0, a wise-cracking drone motion-capped by Alan Tudyk. New characters, some familiar faces (Vader’s back!), no title crawl, and no John Williams score makes this the most un-Star Wars Star Wars movie ever. But will the kids even notice or care? Let’s see if the critics think the force is strong with Rogue One.
For Kids: Face it: every droid, Ewok, CGI character and Wookie in Star Wars is there to keep the kids happy. Rogue One doesn’t have a bunch of Muppets, proving it’s the most adult Star Wars film yet. It’s gritty and action-packed, and as Variety’s Peter Debruge puts it, “the plot is designed less like a flashy video game, and more like a down-and-dirty war movie.”
There’s at least one role model that will prevent your kid from becoming a scruffy-looking nerf herder: Jyn. “She is a fierce fighter, a rallying leader, and the kind [of] role model any movie going parent would want to expose their daughters (and sons) to,” writes Entertainment Weekly‘s Chris Nashawaty. Kids will also love the 7-foot tall K-2SO, because A) he’s a droid and B) he steals most of the film’s yuks and is what The Verge Brian Bishop calls the “unquestionable comedic highlight.” As the filmmakers learned with Jar Jar, fool fans once — there’s no second chance to fool them.
For You: Critics be damned, you’re going to watch this movie. You actually stood in line for The Phantom Menace, and that was critically panned but still grossed $1 billion worldwide. Rogue One is expected to perform very well this weekend, but it’s actually better than the Episodes I – III. As Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers says, “Rogue One proves itself a Star Wars story worth telling.” On the flip side, however, Richard Brody from The New Yorker says Rogue “isn’t so much a movie as a feature-length promotional film for itself; it’s a movie that is still waiting to be made.”
And, come on — even if you’re a causal Star Wars fan, you know what you’re getting into with R1, where the trailers have revealed Darth Vader (still voiced by James Earl Jones) has a small role. Call backs to the original film aside, it has a slew of fresh characters and treads a new path outside of the main saga. Plus, an ass-kicking monk.
Common Sense’s Take: Common Sense Media is the leading nonprofit source helping parents make movie and TV choices for their children. Their review cites Rogue One as having a “high body count” and “both large-scale and up close” violence. However, they say that the diverse cast and role model character of Jyn, “demonstrates the importance of trust, friendship, courage, teamwork, loyalty and doing the right thing.” “Wars not make one great,” indeed!
Bottom Line: If your older kid is already crazy for a galaxy far, far away, then buying a ticket is a no-brainer. But there’s just too much “war” in this Star Wars story to justify bringing younger padawans.
Running Time: 133 minutes