THE LATEST entry in the Star Wars franchise divided film critics on Tuesday, but is expected to bring in more than $300 million (£236.8 million) at the global box office this weekend despite a social media boycott campaign over its perceived political slant.

Reviewers either loved or hated Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Rolling Stone magazine praised its “emotional, loopy, let’s-put-on-a-show spirit that made us fall in love with the original trilogy,” but the New Yorker called it “lobotomized and depersonalized.”

Rogue One arrives in theaters a year after the main cast of the original 1977 film reunited for The Force Awakens, which went on to take more than $2 billion at the box office.

Box-office analysts expect Rogue One, which began its worldwide rollout on Wednesday, to do smaller business overall but to gross a bumper $300-$350 million on its opening weekend.


The box-office predictions have not changed since a boycott campaign, #DumpStarWars, gained steam on Twitter with claims that Rogue One contains scenes that are anti-US President-elect Donald Trump and portray the galactic Empire in Star Wars as a white supremacist organization.

Rogue One stars Felicity Jones at the head of a brand new cast and follows a group of rebels who band together to fight the evil Darth Vader’s plans for intergalactic domination. It is a stand-alone prequel to the 1977 film Episode IV — A New Hope.

Asked about the social media claims, Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger told The Hollywood Reporter last weekend that there were “no political statements” in the movie.

“Quite frankly, it’s silly,” Iger said of #DumpStarWars. “I have no reaction to (this) story at all.”

Trump supporter Jack Posobiec, one of the people behind #DumpStarWars, said in a livestream on Periscope on Monday: “Why would you give your money to people who hate you?… Why do you want to take your kids to something that will influence them in a way to hate the president?”

Rogue One reviews on Tuesday did not mention any political bias and the movie has already grabbed the highest advance ticket sales this year, US online ticket seller Fandango said.

Fandango said it had sold “hundreds of thousands of tickets” in the first few minutes after they went on sale on Nov. 28. It does not release ticket sale totals.

Variety film critic Peter Debruge said that for stalwart Star Wars fans, Rogue One is “the prequel they’ve always wanted,” while Peter Bradshaw at Britain’s Guardian newspaper called it an “exhilarating, good-natured, enjoyable adventure.”

A.O. Scott for The New York Times, however, called it a “thoroughly mediocre movie” and the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern found it “a fall-alone film of dinky proportions.”

From the moment Rogue One begins, Star Wars fans will notice a glaring difference from previous films in the franchise: the lack of a scrolling text that tells what led up to the upcoming action set long ago in a galaxy far away.

Rogue One offers a new perspective into the events that kicked off the Star Wars phenomenon in George Lucas’s 1977 Episode IV — A New Hope.

“It’s bold. It’s different from the other Star Wars movies. It sets out its own different aesthetic and energy,” Riz Ahmed, who plays Imperial fighter pilot-turned-defector Bodhi Rook, told Reuters.


Disney’s Rogue One centers on new lead Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter of a weapons specialist for the villainous Darth Vader’s Imperial Army.

Director Gareth Edwards said he needed little persuasion from Lucasfilm executives to take on a prequel story that ties to the Rebel Alliance mission at the beginning of A New Hope.

“(I) was like, ‘wait a minute, hang on, this is going to connect directly to my favorite film of all time, like this is sacred ground. You can’t make this movie, this is wrong. No one should do this,’” he said.

“Five seconds later, I was writing ‘Please let me do this.’”

The film sees Erso tracked down by the Rebel Alliance and embarking on a dangerous mission with rebels to new planets to find a way to stop Darth Vader.

Humor during the tense journey comes courtesy of dry-witted new droid K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk.

“He’s not like C-3PO who is super scared and following orders, he’s the opposite. K-2SO is an enforcer droid and no one can tell him anything,” Ahmed said.

At Tuesday’s Rogue One London premiere, cast members said they were relieved they could finally talk about the film.

“We were all nervous beforehand. These films are not screen-tested or shown. The first audience was on Saturday and it was reassuring particularly that the true die-hard Star Wars fans have given it their seal of approval,” Jones said.

“There are characters making cameos from the past,” said Forest Whitaker, who plays the rebel fighter Saw Gerrera. “That was a big secret, so it’s great to be free to talk about what was going on in the movie itself,” he added. — Reuters

MTRCB Rating: PG