Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rogue One

Hi there! Sunday, my family ventured forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude to go see a movie.

Gee, I wonder which one it was?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the tale of what happened immediately before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. As you may recall, the first Star Wars film opens with the Rebel Alliance fighting against Imperial forces who are in search of plans for the Empire’s new super weapon, the Death Star.  Where those plans came from and the cost paid to get them are at the core of Rogue One.

At the center of our story is Jyn Erso, a young woman whose mother is dead and her father, Galen Erso, is known as a collaborator with the Empire, helping them build a secret weapon of immense power. Jyn was raised for a time by a man named Saw Gerrera, a man so fanatically opposed to the Empire even the Rebel Alliance don’t want to deal with him. But when an Imperial pilot defects with information on the secret weapon, the Rebels need Saw to find the pilot. And they need Jyn to find Saw.

Jyn goes to Jedha, accompanied (guarded?) by Cassion Andor, a life long fighter for the rebellion; and K-2SO, an Imperial droid re-programmed to serve the rebels. He is also programmed for sarcasm.  On Jedha, our trio encounters Chirrut Îmwe, a blind monk with an affinity for the force, and Baze Malbus, his warrior guardian. They join up with our crew as the pilot is recovered but then the Death Star decides to run a test with Jedha as a target. Everyone in the main cast makes a getaway as the planet crumbles around them.

Before all that, Jyn met Saw who shared with her the message he got from the pilot: a hologram from Jyn’s father. In the message, Galen confesses to helping the Empire build the Death Star but he knew they would build it with him or without him. So by agreeing to help the Empire, Jyn's father was in a position to affect things. Such as putting a super secret crucial flaw in the middle of the Death Star. The Empire will never find it but it will help the Rebels destroy the weapon. 

A mission to rescue Jyn's father goes very awry as Galen gets very dead. The only chance now to stop the Empire is to find the plans which are stored on Scarif. Once there, an epic battle is joined but the Rebels find the plans and transmit them to a rebel ship even as an incredibly powerful Jedi dressed in black goes after that rebel ship in hot pursuit.

And so Rogue One ends... at A New Hope's beginning.

Over it's debut weekend, Rogue One earned a ton of money AND accolades and both were well deserved. Rogue One is a mean machine of a movie with complex characters brought to life by nuanced acting caught up in an adrenaline rush adventure. Our core group of rebels on their epic against all odds quest is a group of people you really want to know more about.


You won't.


Everyone dies.


Which is very unusual for a major big budget motion picture tied to a franchise that makes billions of dollars not just from movies but from ancillary merchandising and spin off projects. Studio execs want characters who can stay alive, star in the sequels and model for action figures.

But a different course is taken here and Rogue One is more powerful for it. Taking up arms against a massive force like the Empire cannot be done without cost or consequence. People are going to be hurt. Sometimes a suicide mission is suicide.

And as each one of the rebel team dies, we feel the hurt in a way that we can't when Han Solo died in The Force Awakens. (Oops! Spoilers?) There's part of us that understands that Harrison Ford is a big name movie star who is an old man now and probably agreed to do this movie only if Han got killed off.

But the rebels in Rogue One are played by mostly unknown actors. What we know of these characters is not informed by what we know of their actors off the screen but almost entirely by what we see on screen. And what we saw were flawed beings who found a calling greater than themselves and made the ultimate sacrifice to that call. Even the sarcastic droid K-2 provoked a reaction of shock and sadness as he fell under heavy artillery fire, battered to oblivion.

Rogue One also reaffirms what The Force Awakens showed us last year, that a big budget action film can be anchored by a female lead. Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso kicks butt and barely can be bothered to take names. Hardened by abandonment, Jyn has no cause beyond herself but caught up in the orbit of the Rebel Alliance and inspired by her father's sacrifice to fight the Empire from within, Jyn becomes indomitable in her quest to recover the information that her father died for that will redeem his name and stop the Empire.

But while there is a lot that is new about Rogue One, there are some appearances by a few previously established characters. Jimmy Smits returns as Bail Organa who appeared in the prequel trilogy. C3PO and R2D2 have a cameo. 

Peter Cushing is back as Grand Moff Tarkin which is quite a trick since Peter Cushing died in 1994. 

Really cool spoiler alert: Princess Leia Organa shows up too, looking very much like a young Carrie Fisher. 

One returning character we've known about from the trailers is Darth Vader who's living in a castle on the volcano planet that physically decimated Anakin Skywalker, leaving behind the black clad acolyte of the dark side of the Force.

I'm not normally a fan of prequel stories but Rogue One tells a story that's smart and exciting on its own and actually builds a strong foundation that makes the movie that started it all back in 1977 even more remarkable. Rogue One does not diminish the Star Wars mystique, it adds to it.


Tomorrow on the blog, I take on a topic that I've been meaning to write about but also been actively avoiding.

Coming up for the next three days, Christmas provides the theme for these posts.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.

Well, It's Monday Again.

Well, it's Monday again.  It keeps happening.  This weekend, I think I finally moved beyond my sinus infection and/or tick bite. My ...