Rogue One was just what I needed this Christmas.
Outside of the fact that I thought the film was fabulously done, stupendously acted, and just plain engaging and true to the Star Wars sub-genre, I frankly just needed a proper hero story. I know you could say that every story is a hero story, especially with the superhero genre raging out of control, but this was different. This was raw, real. The hero was heavily flawed to the last moment of the film. It was imperfect, and it was important. It was sad. And this is particularly shocking because at the end of all things, this was Disney.
I’m going to stop right here and say that there might be spoilers below, so read at your own risk.
Rogue One never once tries to puff up its chest and claim its excellence or importance. For those of you (like my boss) who have been meticulously watching and pulling apart the trailers for the last year, you know that some of the scenes you’ve seen aren’t in the final cut of the film. They wanted so badly to do it right that they stripped the fluff and happy ending to a bare minimum or non-existence. Considering the fact it’s Christmastime and ’tis the season for toy marketing, there’s been a suspicious lack of “OMG STAR WARS!” at the stores I’ve been to. Rogue One is allowed to speak for itself. You know the story, more or less, so come see it.
Going in, this is what you know, even if you’ve not been impatiently scouring the internet for spoilers and leaked footage: this is the story of the team who managed to steal the plans for the Death Star, which rolls out right into the early parts of A New Hope. That in and of itself should garner a giant exclamation point (!). This team is the team that made all the other Star Wars films, books, and even the Christmas Special (I know, I know, we don’t talk about that) a thing. This story is quite possible the most important story in the Star Wars universe.
Zoom in on the only female in the merry bunch, Jyn Erso. The illusion is given early on that she’s to be the hero(ine) of this story, but it’s a role she does not accept until the second part of the film. The first we see her fully grown, she is being rescued by the rebellion from an imperial prison, and she doesn’t even know who they are. She attacks her rescuers and is only stopped from escape by K-2SO, who catches her by surprise. Jyn makes it very, very clear early on that she has no love for the rebellion. She has her reasons. That’s an interesting way to portray your hero… of the rebellion….
Contrasting Jyn is Captain Cassian. He has done horrible things in the name of the rebellion, things he justifies because it’s “for a greater cause”. All he cares about is the end result, not the people he kills on the way. He is ready to kill her father, with her on the ship. He point blank lies about it beforehand, and afterwards shows no remorse for his intention.
What is interesting is that the hope and determination of each of these two characters awakens a deeper purpose within the other, and an alliance blossoms. It is this alliance, this shared purpose to stop the evil in ourselves and aimed from others, that makes the mission ultimately successful… if at an incredibly high cost.
I think that we, as humans, are very much like the rebel council. We like to talk about all the things that we find unjust, and we argue among ourselves about what we should do about them. We like to talk, but how many of us have the courage to do? One of the lines in the movie (it was repeated a few times, you can’t have missed it) is “Rebellions are built on hope.” I think this is true. We hope for a better future, a better leader, a better world, or a better life. It is fear that chains us to the ground. We are afraid of the repercussions of even a peaceful protest. In the film, the rebel council ultimately decides that the risk is too great, and they’d rather run and hide and live under the rule of the Empire than chances running with their limited forces into the heart of evil. It’s a handful of renegades who stand up against this greater authority to do what they think is right.
As 2016 comes to a close, I would challenge my fellow humans, and myself, to act upon hope, not fear. To be a little more like Jyn, K-2, Cassian, Chirrut, Baze, and Rook… and all the others who flew to Scariff. They knew it was a suicide mission, but they also knew their accomplishmentsvwould change the universe. I know 2017 looms over us like a dark shadow, and this holiday season feels a bit like the calm before the storm. There are a lot of unknowns, a lot of things we are all afraid of as we enter a new chapter of world history, thanks to the 2016 presidential election and Brexit earlier this year. But if six rebels can rally a cause that changes the course of everything, so can we.