Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). Rated PG-13
A Lucasfilm/Disney Production. A Gareth Edwards Film.
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, and Alan Tudyk, with Forrest Whitaker, and James Earl Jones as Darth Vader.
In the words of the Pointer Sisters at the beginning of their cover of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town: “Well, here we are, another year’s gone by!”
And thanks to our beneficent overlords at the House of Mouse, that means that, just like this weekend in 2015, we get a Star Wars movie!
This year, that movie is Rogue One, and its plot can be easily summarized as follows:
This is the story of the spy mission that immediately preceded 1977’s Star Wars. Let’s dive in.
ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO WISH THE PLOT NOT TO BE SPOILED.
So building a Death Star is a thankless task. A few years back, a group of students at Lehigh University calculated the monetary cost and necessary resources for building a Death Star, and they came up with $8.1 quadrillion dollars (13 times the GDP of every country on Earth), and 833,000 years’ worth of steel production.
That said, there’s apparently enough iron on Earth to build two billion Death Stars. That’s two BILLION armored space stations powerful enough to turn your planet into gravel.
At the end of Episode II, Attack of the Clones (a.k.a. the worst of all the Star Wars movies by a LOOOONG shot), you briefly see a projection of the plans for the Death Star on Geonosis, which are then pocketed by Count Dooku (R.I.P. Christopher Lee) as he bounces on up out of there. At the end of Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, three years later, construction on the Death Star has begun, as there is a shot at the end of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader looking out a Star Destroyer window on its skeletal structure.
The director of the Death Star project is an Imperial science and technology officer by the name of Orson Krennic. And realistically, considering his boss is somebody who can CHOKE PEOPLE WITH HIS MIND (as Krennic finds out later, much to his discomfort), ol’ Orson has quite the mouth and attitude on him. He also has an ego the size of Mount Olympus, so there’s that.
At the end of the movie, Krennic dies.
Now, one of Krennic’s top scientists is a guy by the name of Galen Erso. Erso is one of the galaxy’s leading experts on the use of kyber crystals, which are found at the heart of every lightsaber. He decided that if a lightsaber can use one tiny refined kyber crystal to amplify energy to create a laser sword, then maybe a WHOLE LOT of refined kyber crystal could amplify energy in a way that would create a boundless supply and would make it possible to power countries or even entire planets without using finite resources.
When the Manhattan Project began, the goal was to create a functional nuclear reactor that would provide power from a fission reaction. We know where THAT ended up. As such, you can probably figure out that it took Krennic approximately two milliseconds to go from “kyber farm” to “DEATH RAY”.
Some scientists don’t so much like their inventions raining death from the sky, so Erso bounced. Krennic hunted him down, of course, because HE HAS THE EMPIRE. Erso’s wife got shot, his daughter ran off into hiding, and he went back to work.
At the mid-point of the movie, Galen dies.
Not for nothing, but this is the second Star Wars movie in a row where the focal character is a woman. Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy was asked about that recently, and she basically said that she had no patience for fragile, insecure men who had a problem with female heroes, and that they were welcome to not watch Star Wars.
Jyn is Galen’s daughter. Jyn turns to a life of scavenging and crime. Unlike other scavenging juvenile delinquents who have fronted Star Wars movies recently, Jyn gets caught by the authorities and locked up. Jyn gets busted out. Jyn REBELS.
At the end of the movie, Jyn dies.
This dude, though. Heart of ice. Shoots Jim Keats in the back. Busts out Jyn Erso. Treats her like crap. Only cares about a droid.
And again, not for nothing, this is the second Star Wars movie in a row with a Latino male lead. And the diversity doesn’t feel forced, it just feels like the right casting. The best casting. TREMENDOUS casting.
At the end of the movie, Cassian dies.
Speaking of the droid, here he is. K2-S0 is a droid with C-3P0’s inability to shut up combined with Han Solo’s sarcastic streak. In other words, he may be the best character in this movie.
Don’t get too attached, though. He’s voiced by Alan Tudyk, and as Tudyk’s characters are wont to do, he wound up super-dead with a big ol’ hole in his chest. I’m honestly surprised he didn’t whisper something about being a leaf on the wind while he was shooting Stormtroopers.
Oh yeah, in case you didn’t gather it from that paragraph, at the end of the movie, K2 dies.
Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus
Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus are on the planet Jedha, guarding the Kyber Temple in the holy city. This planet is where the Jedi Order began; the Kyber Temple was their first temple before they moved to Coruscant. It remains a holy site for the followers of the Church of the Force (remember Lor San Tekka from The Force Awakens?). They are the Guardians of the Whills; Chirrut, who is blind, is a legitimate practitioner of the religion (though not Force-sensitive), while Baze is his bodyguard and friend.
These two spend the movie opening up MANY cans to whup some Imperial tail.
And then, at the end of the movie, they die.
Rook is an Imperial pilot. Much like Finn, he defects from the Empire, although he has a specific purpose in mind: get a message from Galen Erso out to Jyn via the militant wing of the Rebellion, in which he tells her that he made himself indispensable to the Death Star project, so that he could build a weakness into it that nobody would notice:
A fault in the reactor that would start a chain reaction should something explode on top of it; this fault is found at the bottom of – say it with me now – a two meter exhaust port.
Oh, and at the end of the movie, Rook dies.
Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin
Oh, but we KNOW this dude, don’t we? Oh yes! This is the jackwagon who, nearly forty years ago, gave the order to do a full-scale test of the Death Star for the first time, picking the planet Alderaan as his target! Since the Death Star is still on its shakedown cruise here, his targets are a little smaller – he takes out the holy city on Jedha for funzies and then the Imperial data center on Scarif after it is compromised by the Rebels.
He also steals the Death Star out from under Orson Krennic’s nose, which sends Krennic off to cry about to Darth Vader.
Honestly, that seemed like a poor choice on Krennic’s part. “Tarkin stole my Death Star!” “Oh yeah? Obi-Wan Kenobi stole HALF MY FREAKIN’ BODY! Now choke for a minute.”
It takes Tarkin a little longer to die, but we all know quite well how he goes down.
Here’s the great thing about Tarkin. He was played originally by the late Sir Peter Cushing, OBE, who died in 1994. Rogue One‘s producers went to his family and got permission for his likeness to be recreated digitally and layered over another actor, and they did one HECK of a job. There’s a moment or two where CGI-Tarkin looks a little hinky, but overall, it was SUPER well done.
Anakin “Darth Vader” Skywalker
The Dark Lord of the Sith at his Darkest Lordest of the Sithiest. I mean, he’s onscreen for probably less than ten minutes in the entire movie, but there will never be anything in cinema again that’s anything like his final scene, chopping his way through Rebel troops onboard the Rebel flagship, but not getting through in time to stop the stolen plans from being passed off to the Tantive IV.
He doesn’t die for a while yet.
So, long story short, the aforementioned characters, with the assistance of a few familiar faces that pop up here and there, go raid the Imperial Data Center. Chirrut and Baze blow some stuff up, Bodhi sets up a Doc Brown-style radio link, K2-S0 kills a battalion of Stormtroopers, and Jyn and Cassian infiltrate the data center, steal the Death Star’s data tape, and upload it to the Rebel flagship, despite Orson Krennic’s best efforts to stop them. As the upload is finishing, Tarkin decides that it will be a hot day on Hoth before the Rebels get their hands on the entire Imperial Data Center, so he blows it up real good.
Literally all of the main characters die. But their deaths are glorious and honorable. Songs will be sung about them for many generations.
Finally, as mentioned above, the plans get passed off to the Tantive IV, it takes off into hyperspace, and then…
A character in white is asked what the data tape contains, and Princess Leia Organa turns around and declares, “Hope,” making this the second Star Wars movie in a row where she gets the final word.
Roll credits and/or start up A New Hope, whichever you prefer, because Rogue One‘s closing scene could literally wipe-cut directly into the Tantive IV popping out of hyperspace over Tatooine.
I have mixed feelings about this movie. That is not to say I didn’t like it. I really, REALLY liked this movie. I thought it was a very GOOD movie. It was an OUTSTANDING war movie. I definitely think it was a better made, written, acted, and directed movie than The Force Awakens was.
But here’s the thing: The Force Awakens was a better Star Wars movie. I think the reason I feel that way is because it’s a continuation of the original saga. And yes, multiple installments of that saga have been dumpster fires, but there’s something about it continuing the original story that makes it special.
Rogue One, on the other hand, tells a story that, while it exists in the Star Wars universe and is in fact an indispensable catalyst for the entire original trilogy, didn’t feel like a Star Wars movie. It felt like an action/war movie that happened to take place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Strangely enough, though, I’m okay with that. It was a good movie, and I think that with time, as I see it again and again and it becomes more familiar to me, it will become part of the saga.
And so, unlike last year, when I closed by saying, “May the Force be with you,” I will invite you instead to say something new with me: Chirrut Imwe’s mantra.
“I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.”
May the Force be with all of us. Merry Christmas.