Last night I went to see Star Wars with the one and only Brian Spaeth. We sat in the comfiest of theaters down in Valley View with huge anticipation. Before I get to that, however, let me tell you about Patreon. You know this story, but we have a new twist. There are some t-shirts getting made for Patreon patrons of a certain level. If you go support and get to your second month at that level, you too can get a t-shirt that nobody else gets. Also, our Patreon supporters got their own private chances to win Terry Pluto’s new book aside from the rest of you. So really, it’s not a question of whether you should support on Patreon. You really can’t afford not to!
Rogue One feeds the Star Wars beast and signals the end of the light-hearted novelty…
When I saw The Force Awakens it was special. In many ways it felt like a return to the first time you ever saw a Star Wars movie. The idea that you ever get to do something for the first time twice is counter-intuitive, but that’s what made The Force Awakens so special. It was the first film after Disney bought the franchise and it was the first foray into brand new territory in a post-George Lucas world. It wasn’t perfect, but it was damn close. We saw Leia, Han, Chewy, and were launched back into the universe with new captivating characters like Rey and Finn. J.J. Abrams captured all the magic and fun of the originals, even if it did capitalize on the previous material like a new hit song that steals the very drum beat of “Hey Ya!”
Rogue One was never going to be like The Force Awakens. It wasn’t meant to be. If The Force Awakens was the fun, light-hearted Iron Man, Rogue One is the more pointed and serious Captain America. That’s not a bad thing, but it just goes to show that the playbook is going to be varied in this brand new Star Wars future. While the larger narrative will always retain some Star Wars elements, the tones will apparently be different. The real question I have is whether there will be a Star Wars equivalent to one of its pre-show trailer counterparts, Guardians of the Galaxy. Also is there an R-rated Star Wars in the Deadpool vein? I digress.
Rogue One is a Star Wars film to its core, but it’s not the same PG-13 Star Wars experience that I knew would play just fine with my five-year-old a year prior. My son might be six now that Rogue One is out there, but after seeing it, I think it’s meant for older kids. It has a much more pointed plotline playing on the politics and dynamics of the pre-New Hope universe that led to Luke Skywalker versus the Death Star. The whole time I watched this film I wondered how it would play for my first grader who is scheduled to see it at a birthday party over the weekend. I’m guessing he’s going to enjoy it because it’s Star Wars, but he’s never going to request to see it again (and again) like he would The Force Awakens.
It’s an interesting time to be a Star Wars fan because we knew this was going to happen. You can’t make a continual habit of revisiting a universe without cheapening the emotion of arriving back there. There had to be a comedown from The Force Awakens, but I had no idea just how much of a reality-check Rogue One could be until I saw it.
Rogue One was downright gritty and dirty. Where previous Star Wars films felt like there was a clean sheen over them, this one felt like it was soaked in Dagobah juice. Felicity Jones was great as Jyn and credit to the Star Wars team for doubling down on strong female characters in the first two movies of the Disney era. This universe always felt like a place where strong women could thrive, even if it did feature a half-naked Princess Leia at the beck and call of Jabba the Hut in the original trilogy. And (spoiler alert) she gets her revenge on that oversized Fraggle. In the Star Wars world with Rey and now Jyn, it feels authentic rather than some cheap nod to “grrrrl power.” Even with the feminine energy, however, the grit and dirt of Rogue One was overpowering.
At its core, Rogue One is a war movie about a militia. Even more than the original trilogy marking the rise of the rebellion, this movie gives voice to the politics of the rogue nature of the rebellion. They’re clearly the good guys, but even with the moral high ground, the implications of war smack you in the face frequently throughout this saga.
In the end, we were back in Star Wars, and they shoe-horned some nods to the universe almost to annoying effect, but this one felt far different. It wasn’t like the magic feeling of seeing Han Solo again. The actual plot was far too dark for that from beginning to end. That’s o.k. of course, but it was a smack to the face of what this Star Wars universe is to become. Rogue One is a dark military tale at its core. It won’t be as universally loved as The Force Awakens and I’m guessing that’s just fine with the Star Wars execs and director Gareth Edwards. They’ve got plans for the biggest movie universe in the history of entertainment, and it’s going to take a lot of breadth to fill as many lanes as it seems they’re intent on filling.
Song of the week is a re-run…
While I was talking about the Star Wars movie, all I wanted to listen to was Los Campesinos. Naturally, I picked Hello Sadness, and as I was typing this very end section, my favorite song came on. It’s To Tundra.