Thoughts on ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

First, let’s get some administrative stuff out of the way. Do NOT read if you want to avoid spoilers for ROGUE ONE. But once you’ve seen Rogue One, come back, and enjoy the gifs!

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I’m the new Star Wars fan that The Force Awakens brought in, and I went into Rogue One expecting a movie I could get into as a newly minted fan of the franchise. It turned out a bit different…

The story

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Star Wars has always been a war movie so it wasn’t a surprise when Rogue One leaned into that. Goodbye to the wacky youths saving the universe, and hello to the unnamed heroes of the rebellion. The premise had a lot going for it:

  • The daughter of an Empire scientist reluctantly fighting for the rebellion
  • An intelligence officer, and captain with serious baggage including murdering for a cause
  • An Empire pilot who defects for the good of the galaxy
  • A blind warrior, and former protector of the last Jedi temple
  • A freelance assassin who looks out for his partner, and bestie
  • A mouthy re-programmed Imperial droid

And they’re all tasked with stealing the plans for the Death Star…except that part doesn’t happen until closer to the end. Most of the movie is spent trying to find Galen Erso so he can testify to the Senate the rebellion can kill him before he builds more terrible things for the Empire.

I’m not opposed to dark. I love dark even though I wouldn’t consider this movie particularly dark in the greater scheme of things. I wasn’t a fan of the movie because it promised a ragtag team stealing Death Star plans when that wasn’t a big focus of the plot. I didn’t like the constant jumping between the different planets at the beginning which felt a bit disorienting but that could be a newbie problem. It felt very long but also rushed, and that could be due to how the story treated the characters.

Lack of character development

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This movie was two hours, and fourteen minutes long but it didn’t take the time to develop its new characters but had the time (and money) to resurrect an old one. I wanted to know way more about Cassian, Chirrut, Baze, and especially Bodhi who was criminally underused. I wanted to know how more about Galen Erso, and his family’s first escape, and why Saw Gerrera knew the Erso family as well as more on his role as an “extremist”.

Jyn probably has the most character development which makes sense since she’s the lead but she’s also probably the character I cared about the least. Jyn is intriguing on paper:

  • Her father is forced to work for the Empire as its lead scientist.
  • She’s rescued, raised, and then abandoned by a rebellion extremist.
  • She’s asked to work for the rebellion reluctantly for her freedom.

She sounds awesome but I was unmoved when it played before me. I’m not sure why. Is it Felicity Jones’ performance? The lack of interesting interactions for the character? Maybe its the lack of emotional stakes for the character. I don’t know but it does lead to a major problem…

Where are my ladies?

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I’m glad that we had two female senators including a woman of colour – Mon Mothma, and Tynnra Pamlo – in the movie, a Leia cameo, and a female pilot but we were sorely lacking women in this movie! In fact, Jyn was mostly surrounded by men for most of the film. Why weren’t there women shooting blasters? Why weren’t there women joining Rogue One in their stolen Empire plane to steal the plans without the backing of the rebellion??? Women can also be bad. Where are the women in the Empire?

For whatever reason, there was an increase of racialized men but women were a no-show, and that’s not acceptable in 2016.

What I loved

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I didn’t completely write off Rogue One. I don’t hate it but I do wish I cared about it. It did have characters I cared about like Chirrut, and Baze whose relationship, and interactions felt fun, and full of history. Both of the actors added so much to it even though they didn’t have much to work with, and seeing Donnie Yen fight in the Star Wars universe was fantastic. I also liked K-2SO who was hilarious.

I also really liked the end. It was a fitting way to have the characters go out, and the only time I cared about Jyn, and Cassian was their last moment on the beach. It wasn’t an attempt at a romantic pairing but two human beings about to die, and grateful for the company. It was about the forgotten heroes who contributed to the greater fight, and are happy to live with not being remembered.

Like Cassian said, rebellions are built on hope but sadly, I wasn’t moved enough by it emotionally to believe it. However, I am excited for Episode 8. Hurray!

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