Let me start by saying, I went to see Rogue One at 9:30 AM on a Saturday when it was -30°F.
And, I still had to wait in line.
But, it was worth it! If you take nothing else from this article, remember it is worth waiting in line while your socks literally defrost to see it.
Now on with my review.
WARNING! THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD! ENTER AT YOUR OWN PERIL! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Okay. With that out of the way, queue the opening credit roll…
WAIT! There isn’t one? How do I know I’m watching a Star Wars movie?
Duh-DUH-duh! Duh-DUH-Duh! Duh-DUUUUUH-duh-do-duh-duh!
Oh, yeah, the music. Also, I’m not a moron. I forget these things some times.
It caught me off guard. I was waiting for that blue text “Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…” but it never came. This movie cuts directly into the action. Which is approximately the moment everyone in the theater realized they were in for something different and cool.
I’ve seen some reviews out there on the internet about how this was a bad decision. If you read one of those reviews, it is a clear sign the reviewer has been replaced by an demonic entity from the hell dimension and should not be trusted with your further patronage.
I’m going to say—without irony or trepidation—Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie. This is not a statement of opinion, but undeniable, clinical
You can read about the things Rogue One did well and the few (imperceptible) errors it made on other sites. If you’re still reading this, I can safely assume you’re going to see it (possibly again), so I don’t need to tell you how good it was.
But, I think there are a few things I noticed that most people either missed or are choosing to ignore.
1. The Rebel Alliance vs Galactic Terrorists
For the last decade or so, the comparison of Luke Skywalker to a religious terrorist striking at the rightful government has made the rounds on the internet. I, personally, have used it as an example of how some political stories are only viewed a certain way because of how they get spun.
Then, a couple of weeks before I saw Rogue One, I saw a reply to the argument on Facebook. It was a picture of Luke on Yavin right before he went to battle against the Death Star. It pointed out that the Rebel Alliance had a declared military, he was in a uniform, identifying himself as an enemy combatant, and carrying out orders of a recognized government.
I read it and thought, “Yeah, that makes sense. I guess I was wrong.”
Then I saw Rogue One and realized how wrong I actually was.
This movie goes out of its way to show you the difference between the Rebel Alliance’s strict governance and by contrast, an actual terrorist organization in the form of Saw Gerrera’s men.
(And don’t think I didn’t catch the allusion to another guerrilla leader, you are mistaken.)
Gerrera is a terrorist. Well, at least we’re told–often–that Saw Gerrera is a terrorist. Well, to be fair, they use the word extremist.
If you watch the Clone Wars cartoons, you’ll realize he ins’t that extreme. Other than some brain eating torture (which doesn’t seem to eat that many brains), we don’t see him do anything really extreme in Rogue One, either.
We’ll just have to take President Santos’s word for it.
I could probably spend an entire blog post talking about Saw Gerrera as an analogy for several real world people, and that’s not even mentioning he was trained by Anakin-freaking-Skywalker to use as a weapon.
There’s just too much to cover there.
Accurate statement or not, the Rebel Alliance used Gerrera’s group to illustrate exactly how they differed from guerrilla warriors.
Mostly by having a uniform and a flag.
2. The Jedi Religion… Practiced as a religion.
Since day one, Star Wars has presented The Force as a religion. Two religions actually, the Jedi Religion and the Sith Religion, though you have to go beyond the movies to get a real sense of the difference between the two. Sith is not just evil Jedi, which is something I am hoping they explore more in Episodes VIII and IX.
For all that talk about the Jedi religion and temple, though, they never really showed us anyone practicing it as a religion. Even the Jedi are shown more like honorable warriors with magical powers than devoted priests and monks.
Rogue One gives us something new. In fact, they gave us two somethings new in the form of Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus.
Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus are both practitioners of the Force religion, in one sense or another. Both dedicated themselves to it. Both believed enough to become members of a special military group that guarded a Jedi holy place.
Neither is a Jedi.
And as awesome as Chirrut Imwe is as a character, I actually like Baze Malbus’s character arch more. I think I am a sucker for a “restoration of faith” story. When we meet Baze Malbus in Rogue One, he has lost his faith. He no longer believes but continues to serve as Chirrut Imwe’s guard out of a sense of duty and obligation to a friend.
Over the course of the movie, we see Chirrut Imwe put his faith in the force multiple times, while Baze mocks him. Until the end, when he has every reason to believe he’s been abandoned by the Force and so, he picks it up and carries on.
It was probably the most powerful moment in the film for me. Something that made a lasting impression and enough of a reason in my mind to go and see the film. That’s good cinema.
3. Heroic Deaths All Over the Place
I told you there would be spoilers. You didn’t believe me. That sucks for you.
One of the complaints I heard about Rogue One is everyone dies. That’s not an exaggeration, either. Pretty much everyone you see in this movie either dies in Rogue One or is dead by the end of A New Hope. Off the top of my head, only three characters shown on screen get to live long enough to be seen in Empire Strikes Back.
I suppose I can understand that. It’s why some people still think A New Hope or Jedi are better than Empire. They are wrong, but, I can understand their aversion to a downer ending.
The other big complaint is after everyone dies, the Death Star shows up and mutilates the corpses, making each death meaningless because they all would’ve died anyway.
I completely disagree with this sentiment.
Every single main character in this movie chooses to die for a cause they believe in. Each death is meaningful. Each death is heroic. And, each death fits the character arch for the character.
I don’t think I can put it better than Brian Raffarty did in this Wired article:
…the constantly upticking body count, including the deaths of pretty much every major character, is an attempt to acknowledge the very real sacrifices of war—something you don’t often see in a PG-13 Disney movie…
Death has a meaning when you can’t just come back as a blue ghost. Sacrificing everything for what you believe in is a powerful message often lost in Star Wars. The Star Wars universe is full of “Good Guys Always Win Because They Are Good Guys.”
It was a great change to see them have to earn their victory.
A Lot of Lessons to Learn
There is so much more to it than this. Star Wars has always been part of the filter I use to understand the world. One piece in a big mosaic that is Matt. I will probably be mining Rogue One for new lessons until the next Star Wars movie comes out.
There is a lot of good story telling to learn here. As I stretch myself and try to develop my craft, I hope I can implement some of them.