Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rogue One

It takes some extra skill to put together a story when everyone already knows the ending. I think the Rogue One folks did a fine job.
This newest Star Wars film takes place prior to A New Hope. It follows Jyn Erso, the daughter of an engineer forced by the Empire to work on the planet-destroying Death Star. She and various rebellion irregulars track down her father, discover that he has sabotaged the project, and go into the lion's den to get the details to the Rebel Alliance.

We've already known for nearly four decades how the story is going to end, since A New Hope starts with the Death Star plans already in the hands of Princess Leia. (RIP Carrie Fisher...the news of her death broke on the same day I saw this movie.) Rogue One takes full advantage of the fact that nearly every viewer is going to know that story. There are lots of familiar people and places and things that show up as Jyn's story unfolds, from C-3PO and R2-D2 to Darth Vader to the princess herself (pretty decent CGI on that). The journey doesn't end happily ever after for everyone, which might have been depressing if we didn't know what comes next.

Having said that, I also enjoyed the story that Rogue One told beyond just looking for the ways that it links to the larger Star Wars story. Jyn is a flawed heroine, involved in the conflict more for revenge and following her father than for the ideals of rebellion. Just about everyone that accompanies her on her journey is a misfit or outcast of some kind. The story is as much about those misfits coming together to get a job done as it is about setting up A New Hope.

One thing you don't see much of in Rogue One is Jedi. There are references to the Force, and one character who has at least some Jedi skills, but this story takes place in the time when Darth Vader has largely exterminated the Jedi Order. It's a stark contrast to most of the other Star Wars films, where being or becoming a Jedi is almost always a central theme. I was pleased to see that Rogue One worked out well without them.

Just about anything Disney puts out under the Star Wars name is going to make plenty of money, but between Rogue One and The Force Awakens, it seems they're trying to make decent movies as well as cashing in. As long as they keep that up, I'll keep watching them.

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