Star Wars will be expanding once again with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first standalone movie within the universe. Rogue One tells the story of how a band of anti-hero smugglers steal the plans for the infamous Death Star. As fans hold their breath for a chance to finally see the film, critics have released their reviews, praising the film for feeling like a truly different beast within the beloved, universe.

Peter Debruge at Variety praises Rogue One as the “‘Star Wars’ for grown-ups”:

There are no Ewoks or Jar Jar Binks-like characters here, thrown in just to appeal to pre-school-aged audiences. The plot is designed less like a flashy video game, and more like a down-and-dirty war movie (think the conflict in Syria, rather than stodgy World War II films).

Likewise, Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter praised the scale and ambition of the new film:

Shooting in a more spontaneous-feeling manner than his series predecessors that keeps the energy high and both the actors and the audience on their toes, the director builds up to a gigantic third-act showdown that plays like a sci-fi version of the Battle of Iwo Jima, complete with tropical island.

At Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson shared his thoughts on the “dark but dashing” spin-off:

I won’t say anything about the specifics of the plot, because I’m not supposed to, and I don’t want to. But I will say that Rogue One is full of striking inventions. Its planets and smaller settings are vibrant and individual: a citadel city with North African flair, a rainy world of craggy cliffs and tragic ends, an island paradise that becomes a fiery hell. Its careful details and Easter eggs are plentiful, but never too winking or cheaply fan-servicing.

Bilge Ebiri at The Village Voice however felt the film was too calculated to be enjoyable:

I’m simplifying a bit here, both to avoid overt spoilers and also because the film is built around a series of breakneck battles and escapes, all of which establish a sense that important things are happening, even if they don’t add up to much. Not unlike a videogame, each setpiece seems designed to get us one step closer to an outcome that is already little in doubt.

Likewise, Alonso Duralde from The Wrap felt the film to be little more than a “footnote” in the series:

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Viewers who had a problem with The Force Awakens for having too many callbacks to the original trilogy without creating enough new mythos of its own — look on any message board and you’ll still find them complaining vigorously — will find this go-round even more exasperating.

The New York Times’s A.O. Scott was even more critical of the film’s structure and world-building.

You’re left wanting both more and less. There are too many characters, too much tactical and technical explanation, too much pseudo-political prattle. And at the same time, there isn’t quite enough of the filial dynamic between Galen and Jyn, and not enough weight given to the ethical and strategic problems of a rebellion. When might ends justify means? What kind of sacrifice is required in the service of a righteous cause?

Star Wars Rogue One
Rogue One

The Verge’s Bryan Bishop was a little more mixed in his opinion, but embraced the film’s action bonafides:

Rogue One, freed from the shackles of an episode number, doesnt even try to evoke that same level of verisimilitude. And while it might be bumpy for some moviegoers, that actually seems to be the point. The film soars when it abandons all pretense of being a space opera, and fully embraces the bombastic modern action movie that’s at its core, giving it a unique identity that does indeed stand apart from other entries in the series.

Justin Chang from the LA Times revealed that it took until the film’s final act to warm-up to Rogue One’s approach to the Star Wars mythos:

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.

Lastly, Peter Scrietta from Slashfilm speaks of the film from a fan’s perspective:

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Rogue One is thrilling, an action-packed adventure in a chapter that we never imagined we would ever see on screen. It’s a fantastic trip to new worlds within a galaxy we love, adding to the mythology without having to be beholden to the Skywalker legacy as a focal point. It may have taken four decades, but this film finally earns the word “Wars” in the “Star Wars” branding. And we finally get a Star Wars prequel movie worthy of playing alongside the original trilogy.

Photos via Walt Disney Studios (1, 2)