By Jill Serjeant
(Reuters) - 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 "lobotomised 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 starts 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-U.S. 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 standalone prequel to the 1977 film "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, U.S. 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."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Sandra Maler)