Christmas came early for me yesterday as I walked into the movie theater to view Star Wars: Rogue One. Since it’s announcement in March of 2015 fans all over the world have wondered and speculated on what this movie was really going to be about. Most of the Star Wars fandom was thrilled when Disney took over the production of new Star Wars movies, and even though Star War: The Force Awakens was a tremendous success, I think many fans are still having PTSD from the prequels and wondering “Is this too good to be true?”
As someone who has been an avid Star Wars fan since as far back as I can remember, The Force told me that Star Wars: Rogue One was going to be a spectacular movie. That being said I also knew it was going to be a film very different from anything we had ever seen before.
Before we go any further into this review I should warn you there will be spoilers ahead. If you are ok with that read on, if not, discontinue reading, and come back after you have seen the movie.
As I sat in my seat, surrounded by fans, I was struck with a thought. Looking about at everyone sitting in the theater I could feel it. Something unseen that pulled all of us together. Uniting us in the hope that what we were about to see would live up to our expectations, and stay with us in our hearts and minds for years to come. The excitement was almost tangible as the lights dimmed and we read the words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…”
As the movie opens we are shown a side of the empire that we have never really seen before. One of savage brutality and heartless devotion to the cause. I think we as fans always knew that the empire was evil, but to see it right there in front of us, as a family is murderously ripped apart left nothing to be doubted. The empire has no care for any one individual. Their stories, memories, happiness, friends, family, and love are meaningless to an army devoted to conquest, submission, and subjugation. To the empire you either serve them, or they will inflict pain and suffering upon you and your family.
Can you imagine what it would have been like to live under those conditions? To know that your life means nothing? What kind of choices would you make, knowing that at any minute your freedom, liberty, and very existence could be taken from you at any moment? Would you hide, keeping your life mundane, and extraordinary to avoid notice? Would you even consider starting friendships, or a relationship, knowing they could be killed or used against you? Or, would you rebel?
Like the empire, I think many fans forgot just how dire the circumstances for the rebellion really were. Disorganized, scattered, and hopelessly outnumbered, the rebellion was often forced to make choices that would not be considered honorable or even good. They became murderers, assassins, saboteurs, and thieves. They had no other choice but to become the very things they hated and despised or submit to the oncoming storm that was the imperial army.
Would you do it? Could you do it?
This is the setting of Rogue One, and while we like to think of Star Wars as black and white, dark side vs light side, rebellion vs empire, the universe is so much deeper, richer, and more complicated than that. While we would all like to believe that our choices are either good or bad, they are not, but our choices do define who we are.
Cassian, a rebellion spy who shoots and murders his own friend. Why did he do it? Did he do it to keep him from being captured and interrogated by the empire, or was his motives to protect the rebellion from discovery? Can it be both? Going even deeper how does he carry that and many other decisions like it with himself?
Chirrut Îmwe whose home, religion, and purpose was completely destroyed. A man who had literally everything he believed in taken away from him, and yet he still has faith. Faith in the Force. He believed, and it never waivered for even a second, not even in death. That very faith and hope inspired his companion and friend Baz Malbus to, in the end, believe as well.
You see Star Wars was never a story of good guys vs bad guys. It’s a story of choices, sacrifices, ambition, determination, war, despair, and hope. The characters we have come to know, love, and sometimes despise tell the story of what it would be like to live inside such a world. Rogue One is a beautiful story of tragic and desperate hope. A tale of a miserable band of mismatched misfits who for one brief moment decided to come together and accomplish the extraordinary.