In Brief

Star Wars: Rogue One – Felicity Jones 'to return for sequel', Screen Rant says

Entertainment website reports the Rebellion is continuing - but fans should be a little sceptical

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reviews - Critics hail 'dazzling, graceful' spin-off

14 December

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has its UK release tomorrow and the critical buzz around it is already greater than the gushing reviews that heralded Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens.

Disney's first of three spin-off films is being hailed as "dazzling" and "graceful", filled with well-pitched characters and beautiful settings.

Here is what the critics have to say.

Empire – four stars 

"It takes a pair of Death Star-sized balls to release a Star Wars prequel at this point. As George Lucas learned back in 1999, hitting fans' nostalgia circuits will only get you so far: you also have to deliver an experience that feels fresh. (The absence of Gungans helps too.) Gareth Edwards' Rogue One walks this tightrope with very little wobbling. There are plenty of series callbacks to please devotees, but also a slew of offbeat new characters, first-rate visuals and a truly ballsy third act."

The Guardian – four stars

"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 are some truly spectacular cameos from much-loved personae, involving next-level digital effects."

The Daily Telegraph – four stars

"Edwards' stint at the 2014 Godzilla reboot's helm makes him no stranger to earth-ripping set-pieces, and Rogue One's have been conceived and executed with serious dazzle and grace. But in its best moments, there's a yarn-spinning intimacy to it too – an old war story told around a spectacular campfire."

Rolling Stone – four and a half stars 

"As always, a Star Wars movie lives or dies depending on how much we give a damn or don't about the characters. Luckily, there are no cutesy Ewoks to soften Jyn's journey into the heart of Imperial darkness. It's no lie that some of the interactions get lost under the weight of front-loaded exposition. But with the smashing Jones giving us a female warrior to rank with the great ones and a cast that knows how to keep it real even in a sci-fi fantasy, Rogue One proves itself a Star Wars story worth telling. It's hard not to get choked up with that blind monk when he chants, 'I'm with the Force and the Force is with me.' Who'd want it any other way?"

Star Wars is out now in theatres nationwide, including a digitally remastered cut designed specifically for IMAX theatres.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - the first reactions

13 December

The new Star Wars prequel Rogue One has received rapturous applause at its world premiere in Los Angeles, but will the critics agree?

Official reviews are embargoed until Tuesday morning, ahead of the film's release this Friday, but fans are already expressing their approval on social media.

The Pantages theatre in Hollywood "erupted in deafening cheers as the end credits hit, with rolling screams as each actor's name came up", reports Deadline.

The spin-off movie tells the story of a group of rebels who steal the plans for the Death Star and is set just before the events of the original 1977 Star Wars movie.

Some audience members called Rogue One "surprisingly action packed and beautiful" while others praised the new characters in the prequel.

Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen and Riz Ahmed were among the cast to attend the star-filled premiere, which even featured a replica X-Wing fighter jet on the red carpet.

The "force is strong" with Rogue One, hinted Adam Chitwood at Collider, who noted that fans were curious to see how the film had turned out after reports of production troubles and extensive reshoots.

The verdict so far, says Chitwood, seems "pretty darn positive". Praise is being heaped on the film in pretty much every department, he said, including action, story and characters. "Some even go so far as to say it'll crack their personal Top 10 lists for the year, " he added.

Chitwood's colleague Steven Weintraub agrees, saying that despite the film's previous troubles, "the final cut of Rogue One is worth the wait".

Tweeting just after the film, he wrote: "All everyone is talking about at the Rogue One after party is the 3rd act. Still thinking about it myself. So awesome."

Actor Rainn Wilson described the film as "AMAZING!!! Super fun & exciting", while former Star Trek: The Next Generation star Wil Wheaton wrote: "The last time I loved a Star Wars movie as much as I loved #RogueOne, it was 1977."

Film-maker Kevin Smith, a self-professed Star Wars obsessive, was equally positive, tweeting that Rogue One is "unbelievably wonderful" and an "excellent chapter" in the Star Wars universe.

Critics seemed equally taken with the blockbuster. Marc Bernardin, the film editor for the Los Angeles Times, tweeted: "It took me a while to get out from under my own ideas of what #RogueOne could be. But it's the Star Wars movie you never knew you wanted." 

IGN's Terri Schwartz told followers: "#RogueOne is FANTASTIC. Incredible action, both planetary and interstellar, and looks GORGEOUS."

Rogue One opens in UK cinemas on Friday 16 December.

But Ethan Anderton at Slash Film says we should keep in mind that these reactions are coming from the world premiere "where excitement is running high" and most of the audience were "already excited to see the movie". In some ways, says the writer, it makes them harder to impress, but in other ways, "the hype surrounding them can make their praise feel a little hyperbolic".

Nevertheless, Anderton admits, even his fellow press members say the film exceeds their expectations, and their reports suggest the film hasn't been "neutered by reshoots".

Meanwhile, celebrities who attended the movie have offered glowing responses. Comedian Dane Cook wrote on Twitter that Rogue One might be "the best" Star Wars movie, while actor Wil Wheaton said he hadn't loved a Star Wars movie as much since the original.

Despite the fact that Rogue One is a prequel, meaning Star Wars fans already know the ending, reports suggest the movie still has quite a few surprises to keep audiences guessing.

Rogue One opens in UK cinemas on Friday 16 December.

#DumpStarWars: Trump supporters boycotting Rogue One

9 December

A group of Donald Trump supporters have threatened to boycott Star Wars: Rogue One, claiming the film has a "multiculturalism anti-American agenda".

The hashtag #DumpStarWars began with a group of conservatives declaring their intention not to see the film.

Jack Posobiec, of the grassroots group Citizens for Trump, in a series of tweets, said Rogue One was rewritten and reshot to "add in Anti Trump scenes calling him a racist".

"A lot of folks have taken what Posobiec has tweeted at face value, propping up the #DumpStarWars hashtag enough that it trended - though plenty of the tweets on that hashtag are also people arguing that Posobiec is lying," says film website The Wrap. "Whether or not Posobiec is lying, he is making claims that are not supported by the facts."

Both producers Disney and the writers of Rogue One deny reshoots, which occurred months before November's presidential election, had anything to do with Trump's victory.

However, this has not stopped some supporters from voicing their criticism, with one accusing it of having a "multiculturalism anti-American agenda in a science fiction Disney movie".

Another blog claims the film reiterates "Disney's hatred for white males. Unless, of course, they are cast as villains."

Rogue One scriptwriter Chris Weitz has previously responded to similar claims, tweeting in November: "Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organisation. Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women." 

"For those who aren't afraid of seeing an inclusive, multicultural galaxy far, far away, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theatres on December 16," says The Independent.

Star Wars Rogue One: Latest trailer features old fan favourite

7 December

As the release date for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story approaches, the internet has been abuzz with new trailers from various international markets - and critics unanimously agree the most revealing is from China.

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"The Chinese trailer offers one of the most complete looks at the film, including new shots of stormtroopers, X-wing fighters and lots of fighting," says CNET.

And it features more of the character fans love to hate. "Darth Vader is in it a bit more than in other trailers, there's a super cool shot of the Death Star blowing up a planet, and there's a very prominent focus placed on Donnie Yen's blind badass Chirrut Imwe – which makes sense, since Yen is actually from China," says AV Club.

Attention is also turning to how Rogue One will fare at the box office and what it means for the Star Wars anthology generally.

The Guardian's film editor Catherine Shoard wonders if Disney might want to "cap the success" of Rogue One as they "don't want it to upstage the main event".

"While Disney would naturally seek to maximise profits on the film, it would not do so at the expense of its core product: the Skywalker saga," she says.

Bruce Nash, the founder of box office analysis site The Numbers, says it's an "interesting decision" for Disney, adding: "They want to reinforce the franchise, and they probably don't want to cloud the waters."

But Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy hopes it will ultimately bring more people to the Star Wars universe. "I think the great thing is this could be a real introduction to the whole franchise to many people who haven't necessarily followed it," she says.

If it succeeds, writes Nick Statt at The Verge, this "war-time movie about rebels, spies and anti-heroes could determine the future of the Star Wars brand for years to come".

Stars Wars Rogue One: New trailer hints at change in tone

5 December

Star Wars fans were given an early Christmas treat with the release of a final teaser trailer for spin-off film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Entitled Trust, the trailer features a number of quips that lighten the otherwise rather foreboding mood, says Quartz.

"I'll be there for you," says K-2SO, a droid voiced by Alan Tudyk. "The captain said I had to."

"Charming," replies Jyn Erso, the film's hero, played by Felicity Jones.

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Rogue One takes place shortly before the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, and its tone has been the subject of increased speculation, with it being called both a "war film" and a "heist film".

It also underwent reshoots this summer amid unsubstantiated rumours that Disney wanted to soften the atmosphere to make it a "lighthearted caper", according to Entertainment Weekly.

The plot is believed to centre on a group of unlikely heroes who band together to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction.

The new teaser is not just about a change of tone, however, it also appears to confirm the return of another iconic villain.

"Glimpsed briefly from behind is a man who looks uncannily like Grand Moff Tarkin, the dastardly Death Star commander portrayed by Peter Cushing in the original 1977 film," says the Daily Telegraph's Adam White.

The famous baddie ordered the destruction of Princess Leia's home planet Alderaan to punish her for supporting the Rebel Alliance but perished when Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star at the film's climax.

The news follows the intense speculation in August that the character would be resurrected using CGI to digitally replicate Cushing, who died in 1994.

"It is eerie to see someone who has been dead for so long come to life on a screen," a well-placed source told the Mail on Sunday.

The change of tone seems to have the approval of original Star Wars creator George Lucas.

In a recent press conference ahead of the film's worldwide release, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards revealed his team had been able to show the film in its entirety to the legendary filmmaker.

"Two days ago we got to show George the movie and we all had a phone call and I got to speak with him yesterday. And I don't want to put words into his mouth, but I can honestly say that I can die happy now," Edwards said.

"He really liked the movie. It meant a lot. To be honest, and no offence to anyone here, it was the most important review to me. He's kind of god... I will take that conversation to my grave. His opinion means the world to me."

The creative genius behind the original films, Lucas has previously appeared to take a dig at Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. "[Disney] wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie, I work very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships, make it new," he told talk show host Charlie Rose last year.

Although we are still waiting to hear what critics and audiences think of Rogue One as a whole, Lucas's approval "should be encouraging", says MovieWeb.

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Star Wars Rogue One: What does soundtrack reveal about new film?

24 November

Star War fans have been given a hint at what to expect from spin-off film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story from a very unlikely source – its composer.

According to Michael Giacchino, who won an Oscar for his work on Pixar's hit film Up, Rogue One is "in many ways a really great World War II movie", but with a "huge, huge heart at the centre of it".

He also told Entertainment Weekly that he was able to draw on the emotions in the film – such as sadness and loneliness - for his work and that the musical theme for Jyn Erso, a rebel fighter estranged from her father, was his favourite. 

It's a "very emotional sweeping thing", he said.

A self-confessed Star Wars geek, Giacchino added that he wanted to pay homage to John Williams's classic Star Wars work, although he wouldn't confirm whether the classic Imperial March would be one of his references. "Maaaaaaybe", he said. 

However, he did say he has created a "symphonic score" that's 95 per cent original, "with little moments of Williams' classic score here or there to accent". 

He added: "I think you'll feel at home."

Like all cast and crew associated with the Star Wars films, Giacchino was coy about details, but he did suggest fans should expect lots of percussion in the soundtrack – or, as he describes it, "an F-load of timpani".

Given that percussion is a musical cue for action in film, this would imply there is plenty of action-packed scenes. 

At the same time, there are also "more ethereal things at work" in the film, added Giacchino, highlighted by his use of electric guitar and synth. 

Despite scoring major films such as the Star Trek reboots and Pixar movies The Incredibles and Inside Out, as well as Up, the composer's role on Rogue One was something of a last-minute surprise. He stepped in after the original choice, Alexandre Desplat, dropped out.

According to Hollywood Reporter, the film underwent extensive reshoots over the summer and Desplat was not available to work on the new schedule.

As a result, Giacchino had only four and a half weeks to write the entire soundtrack, using downtime between working on Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: Homecoming. "You work with the time you have," he says.

Luckily, he says, he "really, really, really enjoyed" the film, so there was "no lack of ideas or inspiration".

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be released in UK cinemas on 15 December.

Star Wars: Five of the best fan theories about Rogue One

22 November

With less than a month to go before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits UK cinemas, devoted fans of the sci-fi franchise have been busy trying to make sense of the information they've been drip-fed so far.

Since the film's international trailer was released last week, forums and message boards have been awash with imaginative theories ranging from the ridiculous to the suspiciously believable.

So here are the five most plausible theories about the standalone Star Wars film.

Forest Whitaker will play a bounty hunter

Although Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker doesn't appear in the new trailer, his piece of key dialogue in the first official teaser has played on many fans' minds since its release.

WhatCulture has extrapolated on the early rumour that the film would revolve around a team of bounty hunters sent by Darth Vader. Of Whitaker's character, the site says: "He's wearing some very bulky armour, and also appears to be limping, giving off the impression of a grizzed ol' war vet." WhatCulture adds: "The theories do follow this line of thinking, suggesting that he could actually be a bounty hunter."

The rebels are an early version of the Knights of Ren

This is, admittedly, one of the more outlandish theories floating about on the internet. A Reddit user suggests that the surviving members of the group of rebels known as 'Rogue One' will later become the Knights of Ren from the previous film, The Force Awakens.

The theory is based on two factors. One is that the final line of first trailer is "What will you become?", the other that the design of their outfits and other aesthetic clues have been advanced as a link between the two groups.

Rogue One will be darker and grittier

Rather than a theory based on narrative direction, this theory instead centres on mood and what some predict will be a dramatic shift. As MoviePilot suggests, "the Star Wars saga has always been aware of its place within a fantasy backdrop, with often polarised views of good and evil served alongside a healthy dose of affable cheese".

But Rogue One looks set to be an altogether more macabre and dirty affair than its predecessors, with more realistic characters than before and a grimly dusty aesthetic. 

Rey is Jyn Erso's daughter

Rey, as portrayed by Daisy Ridley in The Force Awakens, remains the subject of much speculation. One of the most commonly-cited theories of recent months is that Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) of Rogue One may be Rey's mother. 

CheatSheet speculates that the link may be plausible, "given the physical similarity, British accent, and plausibility of the timeframe."

More info on Snoke

There has been much discussion over the significance of the hooded figure in the trailer, who is seen standing in front of what some believe to be a bacta tank containing future Supreme Leader Snoke. 

According to fans, it's likely that Rogue One will address the origin of Snoke, particularly after his appearance in The Force Awakens, which left many questions unanswered.

Rogue One: Does Jyn Erso have the Force?

11 November

The latest trailer for Rogue One appears to support the rumour that Jyn Erso may be Force sensitive.

According to a leak that came out last week, Catalyst, the new Rogue One novel, reveals that one of the group charged with retrieving the plans for the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Death Star, is capable of using the Force.

The news led many fans on the Reddit Star Wars Leaks forum to speculate this could mean the leader of Rogue One, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) could be a Jedi in the making, similar to Luke Skywalker in Star Wars 4: A New Hope or Rey in Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens.

According to Redditor Robotical712, the characters who appear in both the book and the film are Jyn, her father Galen and the evil Orson Krennic.

"Of those, Jyn seems the most likely," says Robotical712.

Not everyone agrees, however. User Vagrantwade says the timing of the revelations seems peculiar.

"If Jyn is Force sensitive it seems weird they would reveal it in a book that comes out a month before the film," the Redditor writes.

The theory was given greater credence after the release of a new Rogue One trailer this week. In it, Jyn's mother, Lyra, hands her daughter a crystal inscribed with the word "Force" and tells her to "trust in the Force".

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Fans on Reddit's Star Wars Speculation forum have been discussing the significance of the scene. Many believe the necklace is a "kyber crystal", a fictional mineral that in the Star Wars universe powers everything from lightsabers to the Death Star. 

Redditor DJ41 takes from the scene a possible background plot to the forthcoming film:

"Something is telling me that Lyra Erso understands the spiritual side of these crystals, while [Jyn's father] Galen Erso understands the scientific side of the crystals. Pooling their knowledge together, they tried to unlock the secrets to the crystal in order to unlock a cheap and effective energy source that could be used on planets across the galaxy. However, the newly founded Empire finds out about this information and kidnaps Galen but, probably, kills Lyra. Killing Lyra will probably set the Empire and Galen back years, forcing them to make difficult workarounds to try and ignore the spiritual side to these crystals in order to power the Death Star, delaying the project until Rogue One."

He adds that the trailer strongly suggests Jyn has the Force: "I think Jyn could very well be Force sensitive, either because her mother is or perhaps being in contact with this crystal for so long slower imbued her with power, or possibly both."

All will be revealed when Rogue One is released in UK cinemas on 16 December.

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