The Tragedy of Rogue One

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I’ll be the first one to say that I’m a casual Star Wars fan at best. I respect the films for the impact they made on culture and I like the overall story of the original trilogy and the themes of the prequel trilogy. The Force Awakens was also one that I really liked.  What makes Rogue One different from all the other Star Wars movies I saw was that it made the biggest emotional impact on me.

What I Liked About Rogue One

Why do I love Rogue One so much? It’s honestly the characters.

Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) starts out the movie with a lot of understandable cynicism towards both sides of the war. Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) took a while to grow on me because he was an intelligence officer who will do whatever it takes to defeat the Empire, even if it means doing morally questionable actions.  The comic relief robotK-2SO (played by Alan Tudyk) proves to be a useful ally when the situation calls for it. Bodhi Rook is a former Imperial pilot who contributes his knowledge of protocols and technology to the mission.

Baze Malbus (played by Jiang Wen) and Chirtrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen) are the characters who steal the show for me. I love their backstory of being former temple guardians. Baze is the weapons expert whose gun is just made of awesome. He also shows to have a big heart underneath his harsh exterior. Chirrut, on the other hand, is the devout, blind warrior monk who dodges Stormtrooper blasts with ease and provides some nice levity to this otherwise heavy movie. His mantra is also my favorite line from the movie: “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.”

Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn) is an intimidating villain and he almost wins in this movie if not for Jyn’s determination. And seeing Darth Vader again sent chills up my spine.

What really sticks in my mind, though, is the third act. Without going into spoilers, the way that the movie ended had me crying legit tears. It shows that wars are not won without sacrifices.

A Tangent on Faith/The Force

Although the religion of the Jedi/The Force is mostly inspired by the monomyth of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces and has aspects that aren’t compatible with Catholicism, I’m glad that the Force acts as more of a metaphor for faith in this movie and not as a deux ex machina that provides the characters with superpowers. Chirrut can’t levitate anything or control lightning. He relied on his heightened senses, his martial arts skills, his staff, and on Baze having his back. And yet his faith in The Force gives him courage to endure the battlefront.

 

Minor Nitpicks

The rest of the Rebel Alliance, though, is kind of disappointing. I understand that they are at a low point and have to rely on mercenaries and assassins to make up their task forces, but their lack of trust in Jyn is what leads to the Rogue Squad’s eventual downfall. I also didn’t like that Saw Gerrera was only around for the first act. I heard that he has a larger role in the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and I wanted to see him growing with Jyn.

Carrie Fisher

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention seeing a digitally remastered young Carrie Fisher at the end of the movie. Rogue One ends with a clear transition in which Princess Leia gets the information that the Rogue Squadron worked so hard to get. Even though I’m only a casual Star Wars fan, I felt numb when I heard the news of her passing. I knew she was a woman who struggled with a lot of things that contrasted with the character of Princess Leia. And yet, Fisher was able to eventually have a good life. I loved that she went back into the role of General Organa for The Force Awakens and wonder how the heck they will handle the character of Princess Leia in the sequels.

I will probably be like a lot of Star Wars fans and remember Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Right now, though, the last lines from the movie will be the ones that will echo in my mind the most:

Captain Antilles: Your Highness — the transmission we received. What is it that they’ve sent us?
Leia Organa: …Hope.

May the Force be with you, Carrie.

 

The Force Awakens: Nothing New Under the Sun (SPOILERS)

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One thing that keeps getting brought up in a lot of reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that the plot is basically the same as A New Hope, but with characters we don’t really know and aren’t as invested in as the older characters. We’re at this point in media where we understand that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to ideas for movies and TV shows. The stories that drive the Star Wars films are centered around Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces and “The Hero’s Journey.” So I understand what people mean when they point out how this film feels like a retread of A New Hope. However, there are new elements to The Force Awakens that take the familiar “Hero’s Journey” plot and give the movie a fresher feel.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

For one thing, I like that there’s the initial misdirect of Poe being the protagonist. If you take away all the marketing and hype, someone who has never seen anything related to Star Wars might see Poe as the main character. Instead, he acts more like Leia, who stays on the outskirts of the story.

The real heroes of the story are Finn and Rey, with the adorable BB-8 rolling along as their companion. What makes Finn and Rey different from, say, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are this: Finn is someone who is defecting from the First Order. We never saw anyone in Star Wars from the Empire decide on joining the rebels. There are also implications that Finn may be suffering from PTSD but it’s never fully explored in the film. Rey, on the other hand, isn’t an ordinary farmboy like Luke was. Instead, she’s a scavenger, a survivor on the desert planet with major abandonment issues. She’s waiting for her family to come back for her, but it’s shown that she’s been waiting for a very long time.

There’s an issue of Rey coming off as too powerful too soon given how she got out of being captured and how she’s “powerful with the Force.” However, I don’t think she’s a Mary Sue because she has flaws that are an actual detriment on her character.

Kylo Ren is set up to be a Darth Vader Clone. He’s intimidating and a powerful leader, but if any of you have been seeing the memes where Kylo Ren is really an emo Disney Princess, you can see where things start deviating from the formula. I like that Kylo Ren is actually a teenager with major issues. He’s seen lashing out like a whiny brat when things don’t go as planned.

I also wonder why he chooses to try and stay in the dark side even when he feels that pull to be good. There are a lot of theories going around about it, but I personally think that Snoke influence Ren into believing that whatever his parents taught him about the war against the empire wasn’t true and that Luke killed his own father. This personal belief is what leads him to killing his own father later on.

One other thing I liked about the film is how Leia and Han act as the mentors in this story. In a lot of ways, this whole film feels like the first “generation” of characters from the Star Wars films are passing the baton (or the lightsaber) on to the next generation, to Finn, to Rey, and to Poe. I care enough about the new characters to hope for the best for them.

So yeah, I think that Star Wars: The Force Awakens deserves all the money it’s been getting. It deserves all the hype because it reintroduces Star Wars to a new audience while at the same time gives new material for the fans who’ve been following the films since the beginning. I hope that it tops Avatar as the highest grossing movie of recent years because unlike Avatar, there’s more to the movie than just the space setting and the cool CGI. The characters are ones that feel new and the plot feels fresh.

If you haven’t seen it yet, go do so! Take the kids! It’s worth the price of admission and more so.