People always ask me, “What's your favorite Star Wars movie?”
I don't debate. I don't even think about it. I just smile and answer, “Which one's playing right now?”
That's right. I've been knee deep in the Star Wars Fanverse since the beginning. Although I missed the first movie (Episode IV: A NEW HOPE), I was in High School and the fever had already begun to permeate young American culture. The buzz about characters I knew nothing about at the time (Skywalker, Solo, Vader and Leia to name the most popular) did nothing more than fuel my excitement for this brave new world that had arrived out of hyper space and changed our whole horizon.
Since then, I haven't missed a Star Wars movie in the theater. And I have enjoyed and appreciated them all. That's right. Even the Prequels. As I've said before, I'm way too easy. I just love my fandoms. Every superhero movie hits me like that too. But Star Wars has a special place in my heart and soul.
That brings us to the current arrival ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.
After the monumental return of the episodes in 2015 with EPISODE SEVEN: THE FORCE AWAKENS, the fans have been subject to a knew handler of their favorite universe. Disney took the reins and had everyone both worried and ecstatic not knowing what to expect out of J.J.Abrams take on the galaxy far far away.
ROGUE ONE is the first in what I hope is a long line of 'stand alone' movies featuring the new extended Star Wars Universe. A couple are in the works for the near future with subjects like young Han Solo and Boba Fett. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. ROGUE ONE will not be so easily forgotten. It deserves your attention and a viewing IN the theaters.
What strikes me first as an old school fan-boy is the re-imaging that is taking place to fit our day and age. This generation may look back and think the original stories a bit too simplistic or black and white to be totally enjoyable. To me, that is a part of their charm. They don't get weighted down with the debates of the day and simply go to tell a story.
The first thing that strikes me different about ROGUE ONE vs, say, A NEW HOPE is the choice of the female lead. Now, before you get the torches and pitch forks, let me explain a little. If this movie had been done in the seventies, it would have, no doubt, starred a young male hero. The choice of the female lead could be seen as almost cliche for the times. But, in the wake of our mourning for the iconic Princess Leia, an argument could be made for the courage of the original stories and Lucas to put forth such an iconoclastic female lead/role model as to break the mold of movies past. The bottom line, cliché or not, the character of Jyn Erso works amazingly on so many levels.
Jyn's relationship with her father, Galen Erso, is up front and center in this story. I was so pleased that they did not try and force a love interest upon Jyn. The only love story this stand alone needed was the love a father and his daughter. There is something special there; something powerful. It was good to see them concentrate on this relationship alone. As much as Jyn tried to stay out of the mix, tried to not get involved in the rebel cause, her love and belief in her father's integrity and resistance to the Empire drove her deeper and deeper into the fight. It was this relationship that built to an amazing climax with Jyn, a reluctant hero stepping in and becoming the lynch pin that saved the universe.
All through the movie, we have the luxury of knowing how it all ends. We've seen victory and celebration. We've seen the valiant heroes that do the impossible. We've seen the destruction of the death machine that cannot be beaten. But our heroes of ROGUE ONE do not have that opportunity. All they have is HOPE. And, as Jyn so valiantly repeats, Hope is what rebellions are made of. It's an amazing transformation to see her go from virtual orphan to criminal to strategic military tool to rebellion hero.
The other place we see the influence of the modern age is in the blurring of lines. In A NEW HOPE, there were storm troopers, Imperial officers and Vader and, then, there were heroic rebels. For the most part, things were clear cut and black and white. But one could say that even as far back as the seventies, Lucas had begun to blur the lines a bit with characters like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. But, for the most part, that was the scoundrel getting redemption. What we see in ROGUE ONE is the dirty substratum of war. We see the evil Imperial Krinnik doing terrible things and leaving a child to the horror of the conflict that we so often gloss over when speaking of the glory of battle. Her protector, Saw Gerrera, is shown as a militant extremist who will stop at nothing to take down the Empire. This includes torture and killing with not moral conscience. It's not a mistake that the land he is found fighting the Empire in looks so much like the middle eastern powder keg we see on the news daily. The extremes of both sides are laid bare and the innocents are shown for our consideration much like the young girl Jyn saves early on as black and white fight without concern for anyone else around.
Besides that, we are introduced to the bureaucracy of the Alliance, the back bone of the rebellion. Their sloth to action at times sees them frozen in fear and indecision especially when their up against a 'planet killer'. Jyn gives a pep speech like rolling a natural 20 on a persuasion check only to find herself taking negatives for her youth, her criminal background, her father's background and his current employment multiplied by the Alliances fear factor. All this seems like a fail that will topple the whole movement. And, although we know better having seen the rest of the story, we find ourselves scoffing at the Alliance's lack of faith.
But these modern factors all work to the story's benefit.
And most of the classic formula's are there also. A ragtag band thrown together by the Force finds themselves against impossible odds. As Solo is fond of saying, “Never tell me the odds.” There are shadows of Jedi in the faith and practice of the Force Ninja, Chirrut Îmwe . We see the Han/Chewy friends for life in Churrut's relationship with his commrade, Baze Malbus . Most of the ships these rebels flew around in reminded me of the Millennium Falcon, the kind of ship held together by duct tape and hope. Jyn plays the coming of age orphan to hero much like Luke Skywalker of old. But she also carried herself like Leia, ready to fight and honorable to the end.
They featured a droid with an amazingly amusing personality. K-2SO stole the show from the very beginning reminding us of a couple of droids that stole our hearts back in the seventies and eighties and also made cameos in ROGUE ONE. But the one classic element that they shied away from that was missing was the lovable alien. Nothing like Chewy or Yoda or a grinning Kit Fisto featured front and center. They however threw one small gutsy alien for a few nice shots. Maybe they were still smarting over the whole Jar Jar Binks fiasco. Or maybe it just wasn't important to the story.
What we did get was an amazing cast of characters weaving through a great story. Is as amazing as A Force Awakens, A New Hope or Empire? Who cares? It's a great story and, if you care anything for Star Wars, you better get your butt up and see it in the theater if you haven't already.
And, for those of you still worried that Disney's going to mess your fandom up, repeat after me,
“I am one with the FORCE. The FORCE is with me.”