Greetings, fellow travelers. Just saw Star Wars: Rogue One again, and I wanted to chit-chat about it.
WARNING! There will be some spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen it and you’re planning on doing so, STOP READING THIS BLOG! JUST STOP! FOR REALZ! I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING!
Okay. You’ve been warned.
I’m a huge space opera fan, which means I am also a Star Wars fangirl and have been since the first episode (IV: A New Hope) blasted onto movie screens across the country in 1977. I will admit, however, that I am not a fan of episodes I-III, which were backstory to IV-VI (and later, VII). There are many reasons for my not fangirling over those episodes and I’m not going to get into them here.
Rather, let us discuss Rogue One.
Released in December 2016, Rogue One is considered a standalone story, but it serves also as a direct prequel to New Hope. In fact, it ends just hours before New Hope picks up. It’s the story of how the Rebel Alliance managed to get the Death Star plans that Princess Leia (RIP Carrie Fisher) hides in R2D2 before she’s taken into custody.
There’s a large, diverse cast of characters in Rogue One, and what’s interesting is that though Jyn Erso is a main focus of the film and she is a prominent character, she’s surrounded by some strong secondary and tertiary characters that emphasize that this is not necessarily Jyn’s story alone, but rather the story of how the Rebellion got the plans, and how Jyn’s life is inextricably bound to those plans because of her father.
Jyn’s father, scientist Galen Erso (actor Mads Mikkelsen), is co-opted into the Imperial regime to build a planet-killing weapon that will come to be known as the Death Star. He does not want to do this terrible thing, but if he does not, he knows the Empire will imprison or do worse to Jyn. So, in Rogue One’s first scenes, we see Galen and his wife and very young daughter Jyn on their farming outpost on the backwater outpost planet Lah’mu, but Imperial officer Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) has come for him. Jyn is probably 5 or 6 at this point, and she escapes and is taken in by family ally and Rebellion supporter Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).
Cut, like, 15 years into the future and we see that Jyn has had some problems along the way because she’s currently being held in an Imperial prison, having spent a good portion of her life on the run, dealing in black markets, and doing whatever she could to survive. She has not seen her father since he was taken from the family farm and she has no idea where he is or even what he’s having to do. Nevertheless, the Rebellion is aware that something is afoot and that the Empire is building some kind of weapon that will have capabilities beyond anything anyone has seen. So Jyn is basically sprung from the hoosgow by Rebel forces and spirited away to the Rebel base on Yavin 4 where it’s revealed that her father is probably still alive and they need her to help them access Saw Gerrera to try to find out where Galen is and what the deal is with this weapon.
Jyn’s primary accompaniment to find Saw Gerrera on the small moon of Jedha is Rebel intel officer Cassian Andor. Jedha is under the dictates of the Empire, which is mining its kyber crystals, which in turn are being used to power the Death Star. Kyber crystals are also used to power light sabers (in case you want to make one down the line). While on Jedha, some shit hits the fan and Jyn, Cassian, and a few folks they end up with have to make a rapid escape because Krennic tests the Death Star on Jedha.
However, Jyn found out from Saw Gerrera that her father actually built a flaw into the Death Star so that it can be destroyed and that they need to get the plans from the Imperial archive on another planet.
So that is now the primary directive, but because Jyn isn’t considered trustworthy and nobody else witnessed this hologram that Saw showed her, they go to find Galen to try to convince the Rebel forces that they need to get the Death Star plans. However, Cassian has other instructions that Jyn doesn’t know about with regard to Galen, and a lot of things will come to a head before our motley band goes in search of the plans.
I’m going to leave the plot there and talk now about the top 10 things that I really dug about Rogue One:
ONE: Jyn. OMG . Strong woman, kicking ass and taking names. And she is quite the badass. I also like the fact that she has a checkered past, and is thus a reluctant sort of hero. She was not interested in the Rebellion, but when she thought there might be a chance to see her father again, she was all in and you watch her evolve from just focusing on that to embracing the larger cause of the Rebellion, and you see her humanity come out and a strong inner grace. Jyn also plays an absolutely crucial role in retrieving the plans from the Imperial archive, and does some badass shit to do it.
TWO: Cassian Andor. I read a great piece last week in which a woman wrote about taking her father to see Rogue One because her father is from Mexico and she wanted him to see a blockbuster movie with a hero who sounds like him. The post went on to say that after the movie, the fact that Luna maintained his accent in the movie stuck with her dad, who is 60 years old, and he was amazed that a huge movie like that, making tons of money, included a main character who sounded like him. Representation matters. It does. And I loved how Luna brought Cassian to life. Here’s a man who has literally lost practically everything, but he continues to throw himself into the fray because he knows how bad the Empire is. It’s not just about him, it’s about the fate of the damn galaxy, and everybody in it. He plays Cassian with a quiet intensity and drive, but somewhere in there, he still believes in good.
THREE: Strong secondary characters warrior monk Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and his protector/possibly more than that, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). Chirrut is blind, but a staunch believer in and user of The Force and holy shitballs, you have to see this guy fight.
Yen is a Hong Kong action star and champion martial artist, and he developed his own style of martial arts for this film, so the scenes with him throwing down are UNBELIEVABLE.
Baze, for his part, has become somewhat skeptical of The Force, but he is totally loyal to Chirrut, and there is nothing he would not do for him. Which opens another possibility — there are rumors in the fandom that Baze and Chirrut are a same-sex couple, and indeed, I kind of wondered when I watched them onscreen, because they have this cute married-couple vibe and I know that they’re being shipped right now, and it’s really cool to think about the Star Wars franchise opening up to more overt queer rep. Chirrut and Baze are by no means overt, but the subtexts are fun and the rapport the two characters have is really delightful to watch. Plus, they’re both badasses and have each other’s backs no matter what, and I love that.
FOUR: See the first three things I listed. Diversity. I love seeing different kinds of characters with different accents portrayed in really interesting roles and here, it really gave a sense of this alliance of all kinds of human and nonhuman characters coming together to work for a greater cause. I loved that aspect of this film. Also, shout-out to character Bodhi Rik (Riz Ahmed), a former Imperial pilot who defected to the Rebellion and brought the message from Galen to Saw Gerrera. Bodhi is responsible for the Rogue One name, because he made it up on the fly for the Imperial ship the motley band of rebels flew to Scarif.
FIVE: Visually stunning. OMG the landscapes. Holy shit. The Star Wars franchise is well known for its settings, and Rogue One brought some serious competition to the table. From the stark desert hoodoos and buttes and baked surface of Jedha to the foreboding drenched crags and canyons of Eadu to the blazing sun, palm trees, and beaches of Scarif, this is a tour de force of landscape and topography. The final battles at Scarif also bring a different form of Imperial Walker out — though they look like the At-Ats from Empire Strikes Back, these are At-Acts. They’re larger, with larger cargo beds for movement of heavy construction materials.
SIX: The franchise is also known for its sidekick droids. Everyone knows of C3PO and R2D2, but Rogue One‘s is K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk; fanfolk may know him as Wash from Firefly), a reprogrammed Imperial droid who is the snarkiest mofo ever. Cassian explains to Jyn that his reprogramming affected his responses, so he basically says whatever he wants. LOL We’re first introduced to him in Jyn’s rescue, and when I saw this movie for the first time, I knew K-2SO was a totally different kind of droid and I really enjoyed his petulance toward and eventual acceptance of Jyn. Plus, he had some great one-liners. Like the other droids in the franchise, K-2SO often serves as some comic relief.
SEVEN: No overarching main character, though Jyn definitely was a focal point. I say “overarching” because here, the theme of this film wasn’t about one person, necessarily. I mean, it was insofar as Jyn was needed to access a contact of Galen, but what I liked about this film is that it wasn’t really about one person. It was the story of how a group of humans and nonhumans came together and did this amazing thing to stop a terrible thing. So though Jyn could probably be considered a main character, the other characters with her all had their own reasons for fighting for the Rebellion, and they all channeled their energy into this one thing they had to do. And they did so willingly, sacrificing themselves if necessary. That was pretty powerful.
EIGHT: Easter eggs. For those not in the know, an “Easter egg” is a fun, self-referential tidbit/bit of info dropped into a movie, e.g., for fans to pick up on. Rogue One has bunches of these and I doubt I caught them all. The EEs include visuals that you’ll recognize from episodes IV-VI; a couple of characters from IV that should jog your memory; references to the Jedi (as you pan over the landscape of Jedha, really have a look at those massive fallen statues); and references to Star Wars: Rebels, which is an animated series that premiered as a short film in 2014 on the Disney Channel. SWR takes place 14 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before New Hope, and Rogue One Easter egged from that series, which actually serves to tie the franchise all together, and that is pretty cool.
NINE: I was thinking about Rogue One and how it addressed the Rebellion and the characters in the storylines and I realized that Rogue One changed the franchise and it did something that no other film in the franchise really has. It brought the Rebellion and the sacrifices that were made in it to life. This is an emotionally brutal film. It opens the Star Wars galaxy to people beyond those in the Skywalker and Solo circles, and Rogue One characters do die in this horrible war that has been going on for so long (I’m not going to tell you who or how, but be prepared). Like this writer at MoviePilot said, Rogue One has made me look at New Hope with an entirely different perspective, and I now think about the sacrifices that were made to get that disk of plans to Leia. Speaking of, I now totally get her anger in IV-VI. She’s been fighting this damn war forever and seen so many people die. No wonder. Rogue One has given me new windows into New Hope. And Leia does appear in Rogue One and yes, I cried because I saw the movie again after Fisher’s death.
TEN: No overt romance. Now, some of you may think, WTF, ANDI? I FREAKING LIVE FOR ROMANCE AND SEXY-TIMES WHY ARE YOU TOTES AGAINST IT? First, I am not. Second, the Star Wars franchise isn’t really filled with romance and sexy-times, though there are some relationships that are explored but not in sexy-time depth, if you get my meaning. I like that the point of this movie was all these people throwing down to save the damn galaxy. They had things to think about other than sexy-time, and I appreciate that. It feels realistic. Even in Star Wars IV-VI, with the relationship between Han and Leia, you didn’t get much sexy-time and they didn’t really play it up as a major focus. Because they all had shit to do.
I liked that strong women and men were in this film who didn’t immediately start making googly eyes at each other and flirting. Though Jyn and Cassian do seem to be drawn together after moments of antagonism, it’s not necessarily based on “YUM I WANNA HIT THAT.” Rather, it’s based on shared pain and a shared purpose and they develop a very nice camaraderie that carries them through the final battles. It was refreshing, to see characters interacting like that, and developing relationships on mutual respect and shared goals rather than “HOTTIE.” So if you’re looking for sexy-time in this movie, not there. 🙂
See a trailer:
And if you’ve seen this film and you want to chime in below, please do!
May The Force be with you.