Rogue One Review: A New (New) Beginning

How does it feel, someone was asking their companion as I left the movie theater, to know that the entire galaxy was saved because of a woman?

I didn’t hear the answer, but I have mine – pretty damn good. That’s how it feels.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t a brilliant movie plot wise. It doesn’t need to be. Yes, it’s predictable at times, but it’s hard not to be predictable when absolutely everyone and their mother knows how the movie is going to end.

Spoiler alert: Badly, but with the plans to the Death Star delivered to the resistance.

But – and this is a big but, so pay attention – the movie is still brilliant in a way that feels much more important in this day and age. It’s a big fat fuck you to stereotypes of all kinds.

Make no mistake about it, Jynn Erso, the woman, is the hero of this movie. But her surroundings are populated with as diverse a cast (who gets to keep their accents and is not trying to blend in) as we’ve ever seen in a galaxy far, far away, and even in this galaxy.

First there’s Diego Luna, who according to some is not a strong and vigorous male presence. I don’t know about that. Diego, even without the muscles that are the standard for male leads these days, has a presence that’s hard to deny. His character also has an actual arc – he grows through the movie, something so strange for a so called “secondary” character that I can’t keep remarking on it.

Look, Hollywood, it can be done. You CAN give both the female lead and the male lead story-lines that have nothing to do with romance.

Nothing.

For a moment there, at the end, I thought Rogue One was going to succumb to cliché. Instead, they refrained from going the usual route and in doing so, gave us a much more powerful ending. Romance is good, great even, but it doesn’t need to be the be all and end all. There are other stories to be told.

Stories about bravery, and sacrifice and hope. Stories about the foundation for the great victories we saw as kids. Stories about the lives that were lost for Leia, Luke and Han to finally defeat the Empire.

This, for example, was Jynn Erso’s story. And Galen Erso’s. And Cassian Andor’s. And K-2S0’s. And Chirrut’s, Baze’s, Saw’s, Bodhi’s. It was all their stories, and our story as well. Because that’s what happens when you watch the characters on screen and see yourself, you feel emotionally connected to their story.

Especially because there’s a level of self-awareness, not just in the casting, but in the actual writing of this movie, that speaks of the changing times we live in. In two separate occasions we see Jynn almost falling to certain death. Both times she pulls herself back up.

I repeat, she pulls herself back up. No one saves her. There’s no male hand to lead her to safety. No, she finds a way to hang on, finds a way back to safety. By herself.

Did I say that she saves herself? I did, didn’t I? But it’s so important than it bears repeating.

Girls, you can save yourselves. Take it from Jynn. Take it from Rey. You don’t need a man to save you.

And, you know what you can also do? The one thing movies have taught us is impossible for women to do – you can make the hard decisions, put brain over heart. You can look down at your friend who needs you, who you could probably help, and still go up the ladder, because getting the plans to the rebellion is more important than saving one person.

You can be the hero, and you can have feelings, and you can have a group of men following you like the fact that you’re in a leadership position is nothing surprising, and you can kick ass, and you can make the sacrifice, and you can care about someone, and you can do anything and everything that a man can do.

If this is the only thing you take from the movie – then Rogue One has already won, but the surprising thing is that it’s not. The movie is also about family, about friendship, about bravery, about sacrifice, and especially, about hope.

This is not the beginning we know, and yet, it feels strangely more significant because we understand what comes next. The world might look bleak at the end of Rogue One – just as the world looks bleak now, but if the movie has one thing to say is this: Better things are coming.

Episode IV will always be Star Wars, in my mind. This is our New Hope.

Did you notice…?

  • The Star Wars Rebels nods? The biggest one has to be the appearance of Ghost, Hera’s ship, which shows up multiple times.
  • The guy Jynn bumps into on Jheda? The one whose friend calms him down? Well, they survive the massacre on Jheda, fly to Tatooine and meet up with Obi-Wan and Luke Skywalker, which ends with Ponda (the friend) armless. Better that than dead, I guess.
  • Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa?
  • And Mon Mothma asking him to go get Obi-Wan?
  • While we’re at it, Mon Mothma and General Dodonna, though these two ARE played by new actors.
  • That C3PO and R2-D2 cameo?
  • The Wes Antilles mention?
  • The clever use of old footage to give us the Red and Gold leaders from A New Hope? They’ll both perish in the battle of Yavin, sadly.
  • BLUE MILK. BLUE MILK. I REPEAT, BLUE MILK.
  • Grand Moff Tarkin, with the same unpleasant look he had before.
  • Leia Organa, our Leia Organa. Because CGI magic.
  • “The Whills” – as in, “The Journal of the Whills” – which is apparently an obscure reference that just proves how much of a geek I am.
  • AN ACTUAL EXPLANATION FOR THE FLAW IN THE DEATH STAR, THANK THE LORD.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is playing now on a theater near you.

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