Rogue One: Putting the “Wars” Back in “Star Wars”
The following blog contains spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Proceed with caution, or just watch the movie.
In the grand tradition of recent cinema, it probably wouldn’t be out of line to wonder if the new Star Wars flick, Rogue One, has any sort of aftercredits scene.
As a matter of fact, it does. It’s called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the movie that introduced us all to a galaxy far, far away.
So how does Rogue One fit into the Star Wars legacy? Quite well, as it turns out. I’d like to preface the rest of this blog by saying that Rogue One feels a bit different than previous Star Wars movies, and that is absolutely a good thing. We’re still talking conflict on a galaxy-wide scale, with the sort of high stakes and big, setpiece battles you’ve come to expect from the franchise, but Rogue One is a bit more concerned with personal struggles than some of the other movies have been.
Take, for instance, Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, the firebrand protagonist with a missing father and a few issues with authority.
Jyn’s story arc in the movie primarily deals with her search for said father, drafted into engineering the infamous Death Star superweapon. She doesn’t become a Jedi like past Star Wars protagonists, but is instead driven by love and the desire to make a lasting difference, and it’s neat to see Jyn be so relatable. (That said, I’d jump at the chance to become a Jedi. Seriously. I’d like my lightsaber now.)
Similarly, her father Galen, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is an interesting figure; as a reluctant Imperial scientist, he works on the Death Star while never forgetting the family that he left behind. To that end, he includes a flaw in the weapon’s design (confirming years of fans joking that the Death Star was an inside job), enabling Jyn to get the information to those that can use it.
Accompanying these actors are a diverse and quirky cast, including troubled rebel captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the Quixotic monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a snarky robot that steals the show in every scene he’s in.
Rogue One is a great self-contained story set in the context of the Star Wars universe. I appreciated the extent to which the film meshed with a New Hope, including some cameos from R2-D2, C-3PO, Darth Vader, and the ever-famous blue milk. Recognizing every single reference is far from necessary to enjoy the movie, but as a long time fan, seeing all of the little details that Rogue One included made me smile like a kid.
It’s also a bit grittier than previous movies; Rogue One does not pull any punches and is more than willing to drive home that the titular Star Wars are costly and brutal. The rebels in this film are depicted much more as ragtag guerilla fighters than they were in the past, conducting hit and run raids on Imperial targets and unafraid to use assassins and torture to accomplish their goals. Needless to say, they’re a bit less squeaky clean than the rebels of the original trilogy, but it’s great to see such an iconic faction get fleshed out beyond simply being the designated “good guys.”
The concept of hope is brought up several times in the film, alluding to the “new hope” that would, in universe, occur in the very near future. The mission to steal the Death Star plans is a last-ditch effort for the rebels, and it shows. They sacrifice a great number of fighters and ships to reach their goals, and even though their eventual success is a foregone conclusion, I found myself sincerely doubting that they would be victorious. Again, their pyrrhic efforts show the realistic side of fighting a war, and this comes with a truly memorable scene in which Darth Vader reminds the galaxy (and viewers) why he’s so widely feared.
Rogue One is worth watching right before A New Hope, as the former directly transitions into the latter’s opening scene and drives home the sacrifices that were made to acquire the plans.
It’s a very enjoyable movie, and, in my humble opinion, an important piece of the Star Wars saga worth seeing whether you’re a longtime fan or just casually interested.