I saw Rogue One on Saturday morning with Present Wife. I have been excited for this film ever since it was first announced shortly after the release of The Force Awakens last year. It was amazing.
Rogue One seamlessly blends a 21st-century war film with the sweeping, vibrant aesthetics of the original Star Wars trilogy. Set immediately before the events of A New Hope, Rogue One escalates the rebellion we see in the first trilogy to an unsettling urgency, and even manages to delve a bit into the politicking of the alliance’s members.
The main characters and unlikely heroes, Cassian and Jyn, certainly follow their own hero’s journeys, but not in the same way as the broad, destiny-ridden journey of a Luke Skywalker. Their journeys are dark and muddied with doubt, with regret, and with a lot of what is it all for?
The other characters bring their own flares and personalities to the screen, as they are wont to do in a Star Wars film, but none appear overused or out of place. They are each placed to deepen the story and only leave the viewer wanting to know more.
One aspect I always found lacking in the original trilogy was a balanced scale. We saw very intimate character conflicts like those between Luke, Han, and Leia, and we were awed by dog fights and chase scenes of galactic proportions.
But I never felt like I understood who the Rebel Alliance was, beyond the ragtag bunch of pilots that Luke becomes entwined with. Where Lucas’s films felt lacking in a more detailed study of the intricacies of waging war, Rogue One fills the gaps. Are there different factions of the rebellion? Do they use spies and saboteurs to fight the Empire? Who are the rebel leaders and why do they oppose the Empire? These are questions that are natural extensions of any deeper dive into the original trilogy, but which Rogue One actually tries to address.
The scale of both the conflict and the galaxy feel far bigger than we could have imagined.
By spending the first section of the film jumping from one planet to another as separate threads weave themselves together, Rogue One reminds its audience that Star Wars takes place in another galaxy far away… a galaxy with thousands (or millions!) of separate worlds and civilizations. There is more at stake here then just the maniacal whims of one Sith or the aspirations of one pilot.
The Wider Galaxy… of Films
Following the unprecedented hype preceding The Force Awakens around this time last year, I was stunned by how many people felt disappointed by the film. Yes, it was formulaic. Yes, they crammed as much fan service as possible into it.
But director J.J. Abrams made a deliberate effort to hit all of the notes that the inaugural film of a rebooted mega-series needed to hit. If they didn’t pay the fan service tax, the core Star Wars audience would have rejected Disney as ruining their beloved franchise.
The Force Awakens had to prove that Disney was up to the task by showing fans old and new that they understood why we love Star Wars — with epic lightsaber duels and quirky, smartass droids.
Rogue One has now proven that Disney can do so much more with Star Wars than simply follow the trilogy path.
Rogue One‘s ending is constructed to lead the viewer directly into A New Hope. My first thought at the end of the film was that I wanted to watch the first movie of Lucas’s universe, and I think that is what Disney has tried to do — and executed — with their new films. They deepen and re-affirm our enjoyment of the original trilogy.
Now, with Rogue One, they have proven that A Star Wars Story can carry the epic, intelligent, adventurous spirit of the franchise in a single movie, free from the lofty expectations and constraints of a traditional trilogy.