So, yesterday I finally got the time to go to my local movie theater to watch Rogue One, but before I dive into the subject, I would like to tell you that I knew nothing of the film. I am one of those rare unicorns who never watch trailers – and if you do too, you are not alone! I don’t watch trailers for two reasons : first spoilers – duh – because sometimes no matter how hard they try to divert our attention from the main plot lines, they always show us too much. Second : I hate being told what to like, expect, and make up my mind from a one minute reel that mixes the action, and the comedy lines in the wrong order. Which means that when I went in to watch Rogue One, I had no idea what to expect, who were the characters, their names, the story, nothing. Well, let me tell you that it was brilliant. The story is the simplest : our heroine. Jyn completes her father’s work, and by doing so avenges his death and helps the rebellion.
My title may not be fair, it is paradoxical, but I stand by it, because if you are a fan of Star Wars you probably resent George Lucas as much as me for adding and continually transforming his original saga, and you were probably also mad when he sold his right to Disney. Let’s not forget that you were again probably scared when you saw that they gave the director’s place to Gareth Edwards, a complete stranger who had only directed four films and two of them were titled Monsters. Hum.
But it was only when I came out of the theater that I realized that they had made the right choice. First and foremost because he was a fan of the original trilogy and that it was Star Wars that pushed him into becoming a director. Which meant that not only was he going to be faithful to the original story, he wanted it to be a memento for all those over forty who had grown up with the film. This was the recipe to avoid the disaster that had been the Anakin trilogy where George Lucas had stripped everything that made Star Wars a great film. I could write an essay with everything that went wrong, and maybe I will, if you want me to.
So what went right in Rogue One? Well, as I said the story is simple, and that’s what makes it so great.Basically there is a return to the simplicity of the original Star Wars. It also focuses on the parent/child relationship and the loss of childhood. It is a coming of age story.
For those of you who are really fan, you will know that George Lucas was inspired by The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell in which he explores the rules of the monomyth. Rogue One does exactly that.
My other point is the characters: Cassian could have been another Han Solo, humorous, handsome, a bit of a villain with a heart of gold. Yet, we are introduced to a character who kills a good guy in his first scene because he could not escape. Although we could argue that there are resemblances to the Han persona, Cassian is definitly his own man. Forget the hilarious sidekick so much enjoyed by the six year old; K-2SO the new droid will bring a dose of humorous lines but not enough to become irrelevant, his sarcastic lines are there, well-timed and not overused.
My final point is the grey areas. Let me explain, everybody knows in Star Wars that the empire are the bad guys (I mean Vador’s helmet is based on Nazi helmets, that says a lot.) and the rebellion are the good guys. What Rogue One brings is a nuance, we learn that the rebellion is divided in a multitudes of gangs and that there can be extremists even with the “good guys”. Jyn serves as the outsider (us in sum) she watches all those groups, the empire and the rebellion take decisions she feels against. The climax is the confrontation between Jyn and Cassian where she accuses him of ploting the murder of her own father, a friend to the rebellion, to which Cassian responds that he only follows order and doesn’t have the luxury to decide which order to follow and which one to dismiss. Ouch. All of this poses the questions of military politics and that sometimes you have to act as a villain to finally emerge a hero. The rebellion are the heroes we root for, but are they heroes before Jyn took a stand. No, and that’s what makes the movie great it revolves around a simple plotline but brings about much needed context that fills certain plotholes of the first Star Wars (1977).