I’ve had all sorts of thoughts rattling around in my head since I first saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I gave it an A in my review, and I stand by that, especially as a reflection of how I feel about the film having now seen it twice. On the other hand, I don’t think Rogue One is necessarily that great of a movie either. It has some major character development issues that are for me its biggest shortcoming, particularly when held up to The Force Awakens whose greatest assets was its characters. So I wanted a chance to talk about the things I love about Rogue One, the things that frustrate me about it, and any other observations I might have. (I did something similar for The Force Awakens.) Needless to say there will be Spoilers Below for anyone who hasn’t seen the film. Here, in no particular order, are some Rogue One thoughts and opinions that continue to clog up my brain. And of course, keep in mind that all of this is coming from someone who unashamedly loves the prequels.
The world doesn’t need another article today memorializing Carrie Fisher by focusing on her role as Leia Organa in the Star Wars saga, so I apologize that this post adds to the seemingly endless recollections of Fisher’s most famous role. She should be, and thankfully has been, celebrated worldwide today as much for her abilities as a novelist and screenwriter, particularly her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge along with the film it was based on and the countless scripts she worked on and improved throughout her career, as for her performance as Leia. She should be remembered for her biting sense of humor, her eagerness to call out bullshit wherever she saw it, especially in the world of movies and celebrities, and her bravery in openly discussing her battles with addiction and bipolar disorder, giving a voice to struggles that are all too common yet which we frequently pretend don’t exist. And of course her career as an actress was far more diverse and expansive than just Star Wars, with supporting roles in classics like When Harry Met Sally…, Hannah and Her Sisters, and The Blues Brothers to countless appearances on television. Carrie Fisher was far, far more than Leia, and yet the role that she so expertly defined will be the one that will forever define her, just as the character of Leia helped to define my views of what a hero should look like. Through Leia, Carrie Fisher taught me to be a feminist, long before I even knew what a feminist was.
In my youth I read every Star Wars novel I could get my hands on. I was obsessed with the Expanded Universe and the opportunity it represented to give me more of my beloved trilogy of films, at least until such time as George Lucas saw fit to give us those long-promised extra episodes. I loved reading about the continuing adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando, R2, 3PO, and the rest, their children, and the extended Skywalker family’s attempts to bring peace to that galaxy far, far away. But my favorite books often didn’t involve the saga’s familiar bands of heroes and villains at all, instead focusing on a minor character from the films or telling the story of a previously unexplored event or location in the world of the movies. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars, they sadly but wisely did away with the Expanded Universe, relegating it to the Star Wars Legends label and removing it from the official canon in order to clear the way for The Force Awakens. It made lots of sense, as it would have been impossible to work the new films around the intricate and even sometimes contradictory narrative that had been created by the countless books, but it was hard to see these stories that I’d (mostly) loved stripped of their official status and turned into a tantalizing “what if” outlining an alternate take on the Star Wars mythology. Despite the Star Wars universe losing a good deal of depth and color without the EU, Disney now finds itself with new avenues of storytelling open to it, and the opportunity to flesh out the saga in a more cohesive way. It’s already started this process with a new series of books that weave in and out of the films and TV series that make up the new official Star Wars canon, but their newest and biggest push to once again plumb those unexplored depths has arrived in the form of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s a bold move, giving audiences a big screen event film with Star Wars in the title, yet featuring almost none of the saga’s main characters, placing it alongside the series’ other 7 live-action films as an equal, yet not advancing the main story of the Skywalker family, requiring a little work and understanding from viewers as to how it relates to its cinematic brethren, all while hoping to launch a new method of Star Wars storytelling as well as a new way to capitalize on the popularity of Star Wars. In the end, Rogue One is a success, telling an exciting and compelling story that enriches the universe without distracting from the ongoing main saga, and I can’t help but feel like it’s the cinematic equivalent of those novels I loved as a kid, which explored moments, issues, and characters that would never be worthy of inclusion alongside the Skywalkers, but which nevertheless contributed to those iconic stories by bringing the surrounding world to life. Continue reading