I offer the revelations that I’m still thinking about from the excellent Rogue One.
I finally saw Rogue One and loved it. I’m not really a guy who can give you a reasonable review since I was predisposed to love it and all things Star Wars. (Here’s my review of Star Wars Pringles! “They’re awesome!”) If Rogue One was terrible, you’d already know. But it was great.
A lot of hay has already been made about how the movie re-positions a lot of your assumptions about the first Star Wars movie. For instance, the flaw in the death star was designed by an angry engineer, so that makes the flaw itself more reasonable. But there were some other, smaller surprises in the movie that jumped out at me, an old hand at Star Wars.
I should point out that I made it a point NOT to read the novelization or look at Wookeepedia yet, so this is just stuff that I noticed and, as such, could be wrong.
Warning: This article contains spoilers!
The Tantive IV just happened to have the Death Star plans on it.
The Tantive IV is the small corvette ship that we see enveloped by Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer in the opening shot of Star Wars. Captain Antilles is the captain, who Darth Vader lifts up by the neck and then breaks his spine. The three significant passengers are R2-D2 and C2-PO, who get in an escape pod and rocket to Tatooine — fortunate that a penny-pinching commander doesn’t want to shoot a pod with no life forms in it — and Princess Leia, who is captured.
This was unexpected! I thought that the idea was that “coincidence” was something that happened with the Force more than usual. While on the run from the Empire with the Death Star plans, the Tantive IV just happened to be at Tatooine looking for Obi-Wan, where Darth Vader’s son, Luke, lived. But the part that seemed like a coincidence was really the main point! They weren’t on the run with the Death Star plans, they were looking for Obi-Wan! Let’s look into that a little more.
Princess Leia had a mission to go get Obi-Wan Kenobi back in the game.
But during the battle of Scarif in a mad scrum to get away from a terrifying Sith Lord who was cutting everyone up with a laser sword, the rebels throw the Death Star plans onto the Tantive IV and it hauls ass away on its mission to find Kenobi. So Leia obviously would understand immediately how important the Death Star plans were, but she also tried to go on with her original mission. It all sort of worked out, but I guess R2-D2 is really the lynch pin of the whole plan. The bottom line is that the plan was only to find Kenobi, everything else was improvisation. It shows how delicate the threads holding the Rebel Alliance together were. If Leia failed her mission, probably the whole Alliance falls apart.
Geek Note: I think it’s impossible to tell how long it is from the end of Rogue One to the beginning of the first Star Wars. [Editor’s note: The movie’s producers have said Episode IV happens immediately after Rogue One.] How many times have we seen a ship jump to hyperspace and leave whomever was chasing them to purse their lips or put their hands behind their back and begin to pace because, the way I understand it, you can’t chase someone into hyperspace. Maybe you can guess where they are going from what direction they go, but that’s about it. So I’m thinking what happened is that the Empire didn’t follow the Tantive IV, but used spy craft to figure out where the hell they were going and caught them that way. So I’d be surprised if it was more than a day or two after Rogue One that Vader finally boards the ship. I wonder if Darth Vader was surprised when he found himself back at Tatooine?
The Rebel Alliance leadership catalyzed into a real thing because of the Death Star.
The implication to me in Rogue One was the Rebel Alliance was not really an alliance yet. There were too many voices yelling at Jyn Erso without a clear leader. No one seemed to have ultimate authority in a military situation, no clear chain of command. I assumed once Mon Mothma said something, everyone else would pipe down. But at this point, the Alliance seems like a bunch of complainers with everyone having equal authority, not a committed, cohesive group that would take down the Empire. Sure, they’ve done some stuff, but one wonders how aware the Empire is of their activities. Probably at this point they are less than insignificant.
And remember that Cassian is ordered to capture Galen Erso by the rebel leaders, and then as he’s walking out, General Draven tells Cassian to kill Galen. That is a bad sign from a leadership perspective and indicates to me that there is not a unified idea of how the rebellion should be run. Orders from the top should be orders from the top. So from that perspective, later when Cassian doesn’t shoot Galen, he’s actually following orders from Mon Mothma (to be fair, failing in the mission to capture him), while disobeying orders from General Draven. If people from different planets keep their loyalty to their own leaders, the rebellion will never work. Again, the rebellion is a slender thread that could break at any moment.
But once the Alliance finds out about the Death Star, and then when Alderaan is blown up, I believe that the Alliance finds it cause and, hence, their cohesion, a chain of true believers tired of the brutality of the Empire.
From this perspective, it took the earnestness of Jyn Erso to make the rebellion into what it was by The Empire Strikes Back, a military unit to be reckoned with. Without Jyn Erso, the bickering of the leadership— a Star Wars trope— will keep them from accomplishing anything. But in Jyn Erso, the cause gains their “girl on fire,” an inspiration who knows instinctively the right thing to do. I’ve heard a lot of people say that this movie makes Luke seem like even more of a goofball, but I think it shows that a few earnest, committed people can inspire a movement.
And one point that I wonder if it was on purpose, which it probably was, was that the Empire is, don’t forget, human-centric racists, not employing non-humans, even as Stormtroopers. So the Mon Calamari Admiral, Raddus, is more than ready to go and stick it to the Empire. I really liked Raddus and his decisive leadership. I wonder if in Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar says off camera, “This is for Admiral Raddus, you sons of bitches!”
While we’re talking about Jyn as an inspiration, one quibble here that my niece and wife pointed out, would it have killed them to throw some more women on the team? It’s weird that at the end, it’s Jyn in a ship full of about fifty men. [Editor’s note: Yep.]
Darth Vader has a palatial home!
This might be the most unimportant part of the movie, but I was really surprised that Darth Vader has a house! I guess I assumed he spent most of his time on Star Destroyers. I love old Universal monster movies and this was right out of the House of Frankenstein, horror upon horrors, with the bacta tank room, the lava-falls, Darth Vader in there terrifying servants. I’m reasonably sure that his home was on Mustafar, the planet where Obi-Wan cut off Vader’s arm and two legs, [Editor’s note: Is is.] and where an angry Anakin pushed Padme and started the chain of events that would lead to her death. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but this is a messed up place to live, even by Sith standards. I guess it goes back to the old Captain Kirk line reworked, “I’m from Tatooine and I live on Mustafar. I only work in space.”
So again, I don’t think that this is much for the plot. But I definitely think we will see Vader’s bachelor pad again. It’s too cool of a set not to re-visit. Perhaps in the young Han Solo movie?
There are more Jedi relics than I expected.
I’ll posit that Jedha was a Jedi home world or something, based on the planet name and the giant statues that had fallen that seemed vaguely “Jedi” in origin. But why? Why were they in Rogue One?
What is it with Star Wars and collapsed junk? I know that Jedha wasn’t exactly Coruscant, but you’d think that someone would eventually clean up those statues that fell down if they had fallen centuries before, which I think was what we were supposed to think. In Star Wars: The Force Awakens the fallen debris of the Empire was evocative. Years ago, the Empire had fallen, but there was still its “machinery” all over the universe and it was slowly being “scavenged.” What do Rey and the First Order have in common? They are both picking over the leavings of the Empire.
And it also tells a story. There were battles after the Battle of Endor— the climactic battle of Return of the Jedi where the Jedi put up a fight, but was ultimately defeated by the New Republic. So what of Jedha, a clue for some future adventure? Maybe. But it is equally possible that the visual designers of Star Wars just thought it would be cool to evoke the fallen Jedi for those viewers who missed the prequel trilogy.
But for Jyn Erso, she lived on Jedha as a young girl. Was she Force sensitive? Who knows? But she certainly seemed to tap into the Force at key points in the movie because this is a Star Wars movie and there is a Force in the galaxy that can make a simple farm boy move things with his mind. Perhaps Jyn is moving probabilities in her direction unconsciously, as Chirrut did consciously when he walked to flip that switch chanting, “I’m one with the Force and the Force is with me.”
And don’t forget that the farm boy is actually on some other planet where the first Jedi temple supposedly was. Could these Jedi relics be important in Episode VIII and Episode IX? Don’t forget that Kylo Ren was collecting Sith relics and seemed to derive some power from them. The Jedha Jedi stuff could turn out o be important in future Star Wars movies.
Are we going to see Jedha again? Again, who knows? But the implication seemed to me to be that the inhabitants of Jedha in the distant, distant past had been some of the first to name and wield the Force, if not the first temple builders.
You don’t have to be an expert to use the force.
I think the Force was all over this movie without being out in the open.
Obviously Chirrut wasn’t a Jedi— or even a Sith— but was Force sensitive on some level. This is something that we haven’t seen before, a working man’s Force user, someone who didn’t have to dedicate their whole life to a celibacy cult. Chirrut is formidable and takes out a whole squad of Stormtroopers, although it seems pretty clear that he would have been killed without the intervention of Baze.
And how about Baze? Was Baze such a good shot because of the Force? He was, right? So there are options other than Jedi and Sith, a middle ground where maybe you’re just a lucky dude or people who are, for lack of a better expression, Force hobbyists, who can maybe levitate a coin or suggest that their friends pick up the check at dinner. “I will pick up the check at dinner,” their mind-tricked friends reply. My sister pointed out that Jyn Erso was climbing like a pro up that storage facility and that maybe the Force helped her. So on repeat viewings, I’m going to look for people who use the Force and don’t know it.
Geek Note: When we first see Chirrut, he’s saying, “May the Force of others be with you,” which is from the first draft of the Star Wars script when instead of “May the Force be with you,” they said “Force of others.”
I’ve only seen Rogue One once but am hoping for repeat viewings to ferret out some of the subtleties I may have missed. But one thing that I think is undeniable is that Rogue One was made by Star Wars fans for Star Wars fans. There’s a lot of love in the movie and a lot to love. It’s too bad we lost all the main characters by the end, but also a bold move not only to have fewer Skywalkers than normal, but also not to leave room to revisit the characters again, a Reservoir Dogs in space.
And hey, now we know where Darth Vader watches holos and veges out!
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