Rogue One: To See or Not to See


Here we go again.

The next Star Wars movie debuts in theaters tomorrow. Unlike most of the Oscar-bait films released each December in hopes of bigger rollouts in the winter and spring, this show is going big. Really big.

In Nashville, three large cineplexes have scheduled 96 showings of “Rogue One” on Friday alone, starting at 9:15 a.m. The estimable “Manchester by the Sea,” by contrast, is on one screen at an art house triplex near Vanderbilt University.

Estimates are that weekend sales will be $150 million domestic and another $150 million in other countries, which is more than respectable.


What’s in It?

The trailer has overtones of gun battles on city streets and the landing at Iwo Jima. There is a battle at the end that is supposed to be good. And, of course, the film’s makers have included many references to previous Star Wars films, even going so far as to bring back Darth Vader for a brief appearance.

As with any Star Wars movie, there is new technology, notably in the video game-derived Empire AT-AT assault vehicles pictured below.


I am not a West Point graduate and so may be out of my depth here, but the skinny legs on those walkers look vulnerable to me. If one leg were cut in two, say by a light saber, wouldn’t the whole contraption collapse? And how sturdy will the inevitable Hasbro toy versions be?

The movie’s plot is designed to precede the first Star Wars movie — “A New Hope” or IV — and to answer the essential question of how Princess Leia got the schematics for the Empire’s death star.

This will be gratifying to Star Wars regulars who, if they were children when IV came out, now are well into their 40s. It may also cause Star Wars newbies, if there are any out there, to want to see IV for themselves.

Generally, critics like the characters (who have much more detailed backstories), and the battles and the scenery, but overall reactions range from puzzled to hostile.

This is the rebellion as it is experienced in the trenches. Younger audiences will be bored, confused, or both. But for the original generation of “Star Wars” fans who weren’t sure what to make of episodes one, two, and three, “Rogue One” is the prequel they’ve always wanted.

Peter Debruge

But “Rogue One” has … no will to persuade the audience of anything other than the continued strength of the brand. It doesn’t so much preach to the choir as propagandize to the captives, telling us that we’re free spirits and partners on the journey. The only force at work here is the force of habit.

A.O. Scott
New York Times

I am am not much of a science fiction fan, but I have a certain interest in the Star Wars oeuvre.  I was on the fence about seeing this movie. Then, when I read that it has given rise to more political discussions, I decided I’d rather stay home.


Star Wars as Metaphor for the Recent Election

Naturally, since everything in this country is really only about politics, “Rogue One” has been drawn into post-election discussions, which have already gone on for more than a month, too long for me.

One chucklehead suggested that the Empire, the evil force in the movie, had been constructed to resemble Donald Trump, who probably did not receive many votes from Hollywood insiders.

This is ridiculous, of course. The movie’s final edit was completed well before the election.

On the other hand, the “Rogue One” scriptwriters changed their Twitter avatars after the election to Rebel Alliance logos with safety pins, which indicate solidarity with rights of members of minority groups.   One of the writers bravely tweeted this: “The Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.”

Then came a “Rogue One” discussion between two culture mavens at “GQ” magazine.

Maven 1: …. “The Force Awakens” … in 2015 … was the same silly-yet-stirring franchise I fell in love with, but now it had finally turned its attention to women and to people of color in meaty, starring roles. Our president was black, so why wouldn’t our Stormtroopers be black? Our next president was going to be a woman, so why wouldn’t our next Jedi hero be one too?

Obviously, 2015 was a vastly different year…. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say “Rogue One” is everything I want,… it feels like a more fitting story for the moment …. A grimmer, graver Star Wars movie feels appropriate, …. it feels like the right time for a movie about a committed, organized band of insurrectionists standing up to an evil empire. Although a livelier band of insurrectionists would have been appreciated.

Maven 2: It is almost uncanny that Disney is telling this particular Star Wars movie at this particular time. “Rogue One”’s biggest strengths lie in the story we know it’s actually telling: the story of a very small group of unsung heroes whose last-ditch efforts set the stage for the much grander victory to come. Fuck “Suicide Squad” — this is the suicide squad 2016 needed all along.

See what I mean?  Too much is enough.

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