Rogue One: The Star Wars Universe and Its Writers on the Eve of the Trump Era
On Sunday, I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story while visiting my old stomping grounds in San Jose’s mixed-use Santana Row development. I had watched Episode VII at this same theater, right around this time last year, so it's possible to make some comparisons between the two audiences.
Our theater this time around was about three-quarters filled, unlike last year's The Force Awakens, which was packed to Admiral Ackbar's gills with attendees. And unlike last year, when there were one or two fellas in Jedi robes and at least one chubby middle-aged guy in Han Solo's pants, collarless shirt, and vest, no one was dressed in costume. But both movies began with a healthy cheer when the Lucasfilm logo dissolved into the black screen with that familiar blue Helvetica text inviting us back to "a galaxy far, far away."
What follows are my immediate thoughts after seeing the movie. There are a fair amount of spoilers below, so don’t read any further if you don’t want the plot ruined. You’ve been warned.
The Bland Is Strong in These Rebels
At least Episode VII had Harrison Ford’s dynamic presence to drive the movie, and his charisma and good will went far to mask the inadequacies of Daisy Ridley’s preposterous Mary Sue character.
About a third of the way through Rogue One, I came to my first conclusion about the movie, and I suspect I'm not alone: I don't care about these characters. Particularly the film's two leads, Felicity Jones in the role of Mary Sue, err, Marion Ravenwood err, Rey err, Jyn Erso and Diego Luna in the role of Han Solo, uh, Cassian Andor. The original (1977) Star Wars, cast largely with unknowns, at least was a film about that all-American archetype, the callow young farm boy going nowhere in life who’s accidentally thrust into an amazing adventure. Mark Hamill had a fresh-faced innocence, and his infectious “aw shucks” charm ingratiated his character remarkably well with the audience. He and Star Wars’ other young leads appeared happy to be working, presumably in the knowledge, as Lucas admitted afterwards, that with a little luck the film might make its budget back, and would be a decent B-movie on their resume as they went on to (hopefully) bigger and better things.
In contrast, right from the start Rogue One’s Felicity Jones is in full butt-kicking Action Grrrrl mode, in a film she already knows will print endless sums of money, and she can't be bothered to charm the audience along the way.
Similarly, Forrest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera (gee, nice Ché callback there, in case it wasn't obvious which ideology the Rebels were modeled after) is there to be the Obi-Wan Kenobi character -- the slightly mad elder statesman who is prepared to die, both because he knows he's fought many hard battles and because the Force awaits him. But unless you're familiar with Whitaker’s character from the TV cartoon Star Wars: The Clone Wars (a series I’ve never watched), again, why should I care about him? Though Gerrera vanishes somewhat ambiguously around the conclusion of the film's second act, and I was hoping, like Obi-Wan and Han Solo showing up to guide Luke at the conclusion of the original Star Wars’ pitched space combat, that he would make an appearance in some form to help the young troops at the conclusion of their battle.