Underwhelmed but Still One with The Force: Rogue One

Underwhelmed but Still One with The Force: Rogue One

**Major spoilers ahead… do not read unless you have seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story***

 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens on the Erso family being torn apart by Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) and his cronies. Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelson) is taken away to continue his work on the Death Star, his wife is killed, and his daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones) hides until she is discovered and rescued by Rebel Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). When we meet an adult Jyn, she is in jail for a long list of crimes and while transported is freed by Wobani Rebels who mean to use her as a way to track down her father and retain information on the Death Star. Meanwhile, pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) has defected from the Empire and is seeking out Saw Gerrera to deliver a message sent from Galen Erso. In short, Galen has created a defect in the Death Star which can lead to its destruction. The Resistance forms a group of Rebels made up of badass Jyn Erso, pilot extraordinaire Bodhi Rook, the stunningly handsome Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a blind warrior who is one with The Force Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and strong and stalwart Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). While Jyn is on a quest to find her father, the Resistance has tasked Cassian with assassinating him upon sight to stop the progression of the Death Star. Alliances are formed, trust is betrayed and mended, the Death Star is employed, our heroes tragically die for their cause, and Princess Leia receives the Death Star plans declaring it- hope.

Gosh, writing all that makes me want to see the movie all over again.

As you can see above (or at the theatre), Rogue One is an awesome story of heroism and sacrifice in the face of terror. Yet somehow I left the movie theatre less than convinced. When Rogue One came out, everyone on social media was raving about how amazing it was- some even touting that it was their favourite Star Wars film yet. What a thing to say! My own brother texted me the minute he was done watching it saying it was terrific. However, my boyfriend is the biggest Star Wars fan I know, and we both left the theatre feeling underwhelmed. Now that I’ve had a few days to mull it over, I present to you three problems I had with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and their counterarguments as to why the movie is still worthy of praise.

  1. Darth Vader got jokes. (sentence by Michael J. Bullaro)

I’m so sorry but whoever wrote a pun for Darth Vader needs to be taught a 101 level course on the character. Darth Vader is not funny. Darth Vader does not have humour. And if…IF…he did, it would be sardonic or sadistic- not PUNNY. Darth Vader is not your father and the dad joke about “choking on your ambition” destroyed our first glimpse of Vader’s greatness.

HOWEVER…

Darth Vader got saber.

In my second favourite scene in the movie, you are cast into total darkness. All of a sudden there is the sound of the mechanized breathing that we all recognize. You hear the light saber sound, red light shoots from the waist to the helmet and Vader calmly walks through a cabin reigning down death and horror. In case anyone forgot, Darth Vader is the baddest baddie of them all. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up on the creatures, ships, and blasters and forget that Star Wars literally boils down to pure good vs. pure evil. Darth Vader is the embodiment of that evil and a weapon of mass destruction.

Also, I would like us all to recognize that Darth Vader might be one of the only (if not the only) character distinguishable by his breathing alone. That is sick.

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  1. It didn’t feel like a Star Wars film.

I know I’m going to get some dissenting opinions here and I certainly don’t think that all Star Wars films should be dripping with cheesy dialogue and quirky characters, however I feel like this movie was missing a lot of the charm that was present in The Force Awakens. To me, The Force Awakens was the perfect amalgamation of the classic Star Wars style and a clear effort to raise the stakes. Rogue One is a pretty great war movie and a lot of people have made this argument. If Rogue One is meant to only be a war movie, I think that is a disservice to its characters and the overarching Star Wars saga. Even great war movies aren’t just about war- the best ones incorporate the human element.

In Rogue One the allegories to ongoing war in the Middle East were abundant- from Saw Gerrera’s weaponized militia on Jedha (sounds like Jedi….wink wink) to the barrage of bombing raids on innocent civilians. You can’t watch those scenes without realizing how close they are to home, even if they are taking place lightyears away.

Side note, what was the point of Saw Gerrra? I am truly asking because it seemed like Forest Whitacker just wanted to be in a Star Wars film, which I think was indicated by his odd and disengaged acting choices.

But the Star Wars-y moments were fantastic.

I can’t stop thinking about Chirrut Imwe’s total surrender to The Force. In the scene where he essentially walks through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (aka Storm Trooper blast fest and they actually aim this time around!), I thought my heart would burst out of my chest. I wanted him to be a Jedi so badly and I think it would be hard to argue that he was not. Imwe’s dedication to his cause was so palpable that it protected those around him and brought them in to become one with The Force as well. Another gloriously Star Wars scene was where Jyn and Cassian die in each other’s arms in the midst of the Death Star’s shock wave. It was such a heroic, romantic, and poignant moment. Sometimes the truest love is dying for what is right at the cost of all else. Lastly, I think we can all agree that K-2SO might be the droid we’ve been looking for. He carried the heart of the film from his first character introduction to his last glitching circuit on the floor of the Imperial garrison. I would argue that K-2 actually had the most character development in the entire cast which leads me to my next set.

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  1. All my issues come down to a lack of character development.

With so many dope characters, I felt really really sad that I didn’t get to know any of them more. We were not privy to their backstories and knew very little about our main girl Jyn. Perhaps these answers will come up in future films? Also I realize that Jyn’s big speech was supposed to propel us all toward her cause, but I didn’t really believe her or understand why she was speechifiying to a group of Rebels who had been dedicating their lives to the Resistance. It seemed like a quick and easy way to manipulate the audience to liking her. Unfortunately, many of those “cheer for Jyn” moments seemed forced because we don’t actually know her. I was secretly hoping Jyn would be a female Han Solo- it’s a tall order, I know, but since I knew she was a Rebel and a badass criminal I was waiting for her to grow in the same way he did.

The movie left me wondering and confused about so many of the characters. A few of my questions are as follows: What crimes was Jyn in jail for? What separated her and Saw? What has she been doing for the past 15 years while separated from her father? What is Saw up to in Jedha? Did Saw’s slug brain attack have any effect on Bodhi Rook? What is Cassian’s backstory? Does actor Diego Luna have a girlfriend (asking for a friend)? What is Krennic all about? What does the Empire, Krennic, and Tarkin know about Darth Vader? Why are Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus just hanging out on Jedha? Do they know Saw? What are any of these characters all about? Why is no one vulnerable except K-2?! So many questions. Please give me your opinions! I want my mind changed!

But the casting and acting was on pointe.

People of colour carried this film. I’ll just say that again. PEOPLE OF COLOUR CARRIED THIS FILM…and Jyn, who is a badass female lead. Performances by Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, and Felicity Jones were outstanding. As I mentioned early, I’m not a fan of Forest Whitaker’s performance this time around. Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic was also great, but it is rare you see a film within a dynasty as gigantic as Star Wars that actively employs so many people of colour and women in leading roles. I truly hope that Star Wars continues down this path of inclusivity and self-awareness in their casting. All of the acting was outstanding and in the moments of Star Wars-iness that I’ve mentioned above, I was totally sucked in and drawn to their story like a moth to the flame. I truly hope that this isn’t the last we see of these Rebel heroes, although it very well could be. They certainly won’t all be together again in a movie as they meet each other and sacrifice their lives for their cause within their two hours on screen. Lastly, I wanted to say that while a lot of people didn’t like the return of Princess Leia at the end, I LOVED it. She’s still my favourite in the franchise and she was looking fly, just like old times.

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I am really interested in other opinions and this probably won’t be my only piece on this film as there is so much to dissect. Please let me know your thoughts, feelings, adulations, and criticisms of Rogue One. And when in doubt remember…

I am one with The Force and The Force is with me.

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