So it’s been a while. Exams, War Thunder, and Pokémon Moon have been eating up my time.
Anyway, I saw Rogue One earlier this month. For those of you living underneath a rock, Rogue One is the first in Star Wars Anthology series, detailing the team of Rebels that actually went and stole the plans for the Death Star.
Before we go further, let me say now: SPOILERS AHEAD.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, because I believe it provided a much-needed perspective into the grittier parts of the Star Wars universe. So far, all we’ve had in the new canon has been grand and epic, focusing on a Skywalker and the family’s effects on the galaxy as a whole. Rogue One steps away from that. Instead of showing us the Jedi and their status as elites with their control over the Force and blaster-impermeable lightsabers, the film focuses on a small, abrasive group of normal soldiers. In the weeks leading up to the film, I saw a description of Rogue One as a WWII film set in Star Wars, and I agree. There are parts of the film that seem bleak and impassable, and I could draw some analogies between the Empire and Nazi Germany. Moreover, this is the first Star Wars film to have a truly painful ending. Up until then, every single film had ended on some sort of positive note; Empire Strikes Back had the Skywalker twins gaze out upon the galaxy as grand, majestic chords play in the background, and Revenge of the Sith still had a fairly long section of hope following Vader’s duel with Kenobi. In Rogue One, though the film ends on CG Leia’s declaration of hope (rest in peace, Mrs. Fisher), the moments up until then were frantic and terrified, as Vader cuts down Rebel troops without even pausing (which I’ll get into later). It’s also the first film to have the entire main cast die in various ways, further showing just how against the wall the Rebel Alliance is at this point and reminding us (as the audience) of the everyday grunt that routinely takes a back seat to the story of the Jedi. It’s powerful, and despite the grimmer tone still feels like Star Wars.
I’ll admit, I liked almost strictly everything about this film, but there were two things I didn’t. First was Vader. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader was a terrifying figure. In A New Hope, he was Tarkin’s enforcer; under his control, but fear-inspiring nonetheless. In the rest of the original trilogy, he directly served the Emperor and killed his own officers in cold blood. In Rogue One, he’s…feminine. And sassy. There’s certainly more hip sway than I would have liked, and though I enjoyed the sarcasm I think it was a little much coming from Vader. That being said, there were two fantastic Vader moments: first, his bacta tank scene sans prosthetics that reminded us of his humanity lost, and the heart-wrenching, terrible moment when he slowly slaughters a hallway full of doomed Rebel troops. The deathly silence, the mechanical breathing, and the red lightsaber – it was the cold, ruthless side of Darth Vader never before seen after his confinement to the black armor.
Anyway, the second thing I didn’t like was the lack of real development given to the rest of the crew (that is, other than Cassian and Jyn). Donnie Yen may have had the best line in all of Star Wars (“Are you kidding me, I’m blind!”), and yet I walked out of the theater not having really learned much about his character (I don’t even remember his name). Now one could make the argument that the characters in-universe had little time to get to know one another and therefore could not really delve deeply into each other’s past, but this results in these characters’ deaths feeling forced or insubstantial.
Aside from these two points, I loved Rogue One. I loved the way that the soundtrack teased John Williams’ score, showing how it’s part of the same universe yet is different from the grandiose epics of the main series. I love K-2SO and his acerbic wit. I love how this film makes me feel the desperation of the Rebel Alliance and the way Empire movements forces its hand in ways it doesn’t want. It’s a step in the right direction; Star Wars is big and flashy, and sometimes it’s nice to have a look at the smaller stories.