I am far from a Star Wars expert. However, I was one of the people on whom Episode VII: The Force Awakens had a decisive influence. It was the installment that made me realise I wanted to be in there, in the SW universe. It lit that spark. Moreover, it connected all the elements I liked from the two previous trilogies and pushed me to commit at a different level. I now know what I want from my SW movies and it may not always be like the next fan’s wishes.
Expectations were not exactly high with Rogue One, as the trailer rather made me think of generic action movies. The Darth Vader bit was the juicy part and in that department I hoped to get some satisfaction. Alas, I was hoping in vain. The very restricted screen time was far from the Vader-fest I expected. At least Jyn Erso was better than in the trailer – her character was revised with the reshooting, I heard. A good thing if you ask me, as I didn’t fancy her initial impertinent arrogance. All in all the actors were superb, the views and costumes on point and the dark lord as majestic as ever, plus the death troopers were gorgeous. It was the beloved rugged Star Wars, with its quick changing landscapes and military tensions. The story serves A New Hope pretty well. I have to mention Mads Mikkelsen here as Galen Erso, who was a brilliant addition to the saga. He simply blends in marvelously. Plus, the Empire-related imagery was stunning, as usual. There was political realism, the two sides were not simply black and white, but had various degrees of commitment within them, from moderates to extremists. There were the undecided and the fanatical ones, too. I loved it how, in the beginning, you could not really trust anyone, because it wasn’t clear who was good and who was evil. I also loved the core of the plot, explaining how the secret of the Death Star was found out. Great story there and I’m certainly hoping for more spin-offs like this.
What would be the issue then with Rogue One? For me, there were several and it’s not out of a sense of self-importance that I want to speak out, but because I see these flaws as mistakes which can ruin this fantasy/sci-fi blend at a greater speed than we imagine, therefore it’s really important to pause and think about it.
At first I wanted to point out the belittling of the force, which was reduced to a ridiculous concept, but then I read about this being exactly the plan. Throughout the SW saga, we see many times the force become a forgotten, often ridiculed religion or even superstition. The Rogue One episode is one of those times, when a concept so profound is reduced to “repeat a mantra enough times and you’ll be alright”. That has a much different tone than what Darth Vader condemned when saying, “I find your lack of faith disturbing”. He is one who knows very well what the Force can do and it’s not achieved through word repetition. The belief in the Force is not supposed to be like modern day subconscious programming through repeated positive affirmations. It’s bonus points for the movie I guess – that it managed to downplay it this way. Let’s talk about the real issues now:
1. TFA all over again
A little girl abandoned by her family, grows to have a major role and do stunning deeds, gathering a fine team around her… Besides, we have the same character cocktail forming her group. It’s the strong courageous young woman, plus a pilot, a “traitor”/defecting Empire fighter/reprogrammed character… everything is there, once again. We see the woman go from zero to hero… and we saw all that no more than one year ago in TFA. It is already getting to be too much of the same, too soon. We are basically having the same characters and structure at a distance of only 12 months, which is beyond exaggerated. Why not have some diversity, Star Wars? Is there no other recipe possible? I’m waiting for the day when the main hero will be an old man or woman. Or an alien. Why not an alien? I strongly believe people will go to see Star Wars for what it is, for the story, for its history, not for some pretty male or female face to look at.
2. Too much “Earth”, not enough Space
If there is anything that truly and systematically prevented me from enjoying this production, it was the incessant clichés taken straight from our planet’s civilisation. The only ones with a bit of “Force knowledge” were Asians – in particular one exhibiting way too many similarities with Buddhist monks; even wearing a Buddhist style garment. Why would there ever be a need for such abundance of similarities? Why copy clichés that exist on Earth? Truth be told, it was painful to watch. There is endless room for innovation: new alien races, new human cultures to be invented.
3. No proper character development
For a film ending that brings death to all heroes involved, it sounds like quite the tragedy. Still, it didn’t make me feel much. I barely knew those characters. Jyn did have a background, a compelling personal story, Bodhi was quite entertaining, but it was far from enough. What was there to make us empathetic with Cassian Andor? He had plenty of screen time, yet it’s so hard to name something that would make the viewer connect with him. I wanted to know of Saw Gerrera’s story. Wanted to see Cassian better developed and know how K-2SO got to be reprogrammed. In this department, The Force Awakens did extremely well: halfway through the movie, we already knew a lot and felt connected to characters like Finn, Poe and BB8.
While Rogue One was entertaining, it did not keep me on the edge of my seat, nor made me wish to rewatch it or to crave for more of the same. I will be sticking with TFA anxiously awaiting for its continuation.
I must thank the man in the row behind me in the theatre, he helped make the experience a very immersive one. The poor fellow fell asleep and I could hear him breathe with the cadence of Darth Vader’s breath – which kept me wondering whether the dark lord would have an imminent appearance on the screen or not 🙂
Alina H. is a freelance writer who earned a MA in Comparative Literature and Anthropology, took mythological study seriously, at the same time developing a long lasting passion for J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings. She does go to conventions at times and has a blast.