Okay. So. Rogue One.
(WARNING: HERE BE MAJOR SPOILERS. Also 2.6k of unstructred ramblings and a mish-mash of canon and headcanon.)
First, I'm going to say what everyone knew I was going to say: not enough women. There could be arguments about faithfulness to the OT blah blah blah, but given the actors' racial makeup, faithfulness in terms of cast diversity was probably not the most important thing. We had Jyn, and Lyra, and Senator Pamlo, and Mon Mothma, and literally zero women in the background, in the first half of the film, but there were female pilots (squadron leaders, even! Yay for that!) in the second half, so the reshooting is kind of obvious, and I wish they'd at least CGI'd a few women into the background in the first half, because WTF is going on with the Rebels otherwise? Where were all the female pilots we see in the second half in the first half? And why was Cassian's team male-only, when the Rebellion clearly had more women than Mon Mothma, Leia, and Toryn Farr (which was the impression that I think most people got from the OT)?
But guess what? I'm not all over the
only main female character for once, because CASSIAN. And I would've preferred female!Cassian, yes, except not, because Diego Luna is...damn.
Anyway, Cassian. Cassian Andor is a hot mess and I adore him, because morally dubious characters are A Thing for me. Also, his hair. His hair looks really, really soft.
I want to touch it, okay?
Cassian is everything I want in a character, and so much angst. They showed just enough (the shooting scene at the beginning) to drive home the fact that he's done horrible things, and to make deciding not to kill Galen a momentous choice (and Diego Luna makes conflict so mmmmmm. It was very very obvious that he was conflicted about the decision and angry and tired and just plain fucked up and it was brilliant). He was obviously hardened and jaded (and possibly had some pretty severe PTSD), and it's exactly the sort of thing I adore and he's just a wonderful character okay?
And I tried to describe him in terms of previous Star Wars characters, and the closest I could come was a mix of Han and Anakin—Han with a moral compass + Anakin if he hadn't been dark. Except not really, and I think that's because he worked solely in intelligence, and we don't see any character except Leia in intelligence, and Leia is, well, Leia. And although we've seen that she's capable of some pretty ruthless things, too, it's not just that he's ruthless, it's that he's a machine, at that point, a killing machine. And I think being a child soldier had a part in it (and I love how right and yet wrong his 'I have been a part of this Rebellion since I was six years old' speech was'). And he must've been part of the Rebellion from the beginning, from before the fall of the Jedi, even, so he must have seen and done some terrible things. And the fact that the Rebellion was apparently okay with child soldiers is...horrifying. Although maybe not, because who knows what the actual conditions were? They were disorganized at the beginning, and who knows how disorganized? (,My pet theory is that Cassian was the child of one of the Temple's technical staff, and his parents died in Anakin's purge, but they were part of the Rebellion before that and Cassian was drawn in. Or maybe Cassian was a child of a senator's aide. Because he must have seen some terrible things at the very beginning to do what he's been doing for so long. And he's burning out, we can see that, but it's a miracle he lasted so long.)
And I love Cassian's change of heart, his redemption, so to speak (and I love the blurred lines, here, because he's a hero at the beginning of the story, but he also needs to be redeemed, to be saved from himself). It's wholly centred on him (and, again, I wish Cassian was female—if he were, would this storyline still be intact?), despite Jyn being the catalyst, because he doesn't not shoot Galen because Jyn inspires him not to—he doesn't shoot Galen because he sees the facts, he sees that Galen wasn't who he appeared to be, and, coupled with the facts Jyn gives, he draws these conclusions. And then, later, with the soldiers, all these awful things for the Rebellion, and now they're just about to roll over and give up? That's basically his entire motivation for, well, everything, and if it means defying the Rebellion to not see these things go down the drain, well, that's what I love about him and that's not even redemption. It's his characterization following through to its logical conclusion and it's very well done.
Cassian and Jyn have probably the best and clearest character arcs (obviously, because they're the main characters). I was kind of impressed that they managed to work in two concurrent character arcs (plus pretty clear storylines for a lot of other characters), with the size of the ensemble cast. And I think that Cassian has a slight edge on how well-put-together his character arc is, but I'm obviously biased. So.
Speaking of Jyn. Jyn is...I like her just fine, but I would've loved to see her with Lyra more, and actually, I would've preferred it if Lyra had taken Galen's place. And for once I'm not all over the female protagonist, but that's probably just because Cassian was a ready-made package of angst and everything I love in characters generally, so I hooked onto him early. I liked Jyn's backstory (child soldier, parent angst, ALL THE ANGST), and Felicity Jones was good, and there was nothing wrong with her objectively speaking, and I do like her, but she just didn't hit the right buttons for me *shrugs*. (I guess it had to happen with one female character, at some point. I can't like all of them, that's statistically almost impossible!) Also, her whole 'inspiring speech' shtick was weird, as was Cassian's, because neither of them seem to be the longwinded speech type. I do like that she quotes Cassian, though.
Saw Gerrera was...I'm curious about why he was called an extremist, because what he did/thought must've been pretty extremist given what the actual Rebels were doing. And given that, why was Jyn so horrified about what Cassian was doing (other than for Protagonist Centred Morality reasons)? (Because Galen was her father, yes, but I also got the impression that the indiscriminate killing had something to do with it?)
BAIL AND MON MOTHMA! I knew Mon Mothma was going to be there, and I would've preferred to see her in a larger part, but everything she has is wonderful wonderful wonderful (and I kind of ship her with Senator Palmo), and this is reaching, but the look she gets when Bail mentions Leia is a bit of fuel for my rarepair heart. There is now a (tiny, miniscule, almost non-existent) basis for Leia/Mon Mothma! (Okay. Fine. I'm really obsessed. Sue me.) And BAIL. Bail was lovely and seeing him go to his death on Alderaan broke me.
Chirrut and Baze ♥. And in another movie, I would've been disappointed by the almost-but-not-quite canonicity (I mean, the only way you can interpret them as not lovers is if you close one eye and squint, but), but it felt right for Rogue One, especially with the way the chemistry between Jyn and Cassian played out. I would've enjoyed a goodbye kiss, or at least an 'I love you', but it was the glimpses of these lives we never really get to know is the tragedy of Rogue One (and it is dark for Star Wars and dark dark dark for Disney) so it was oddly fitting that we never get to see them together properly.
Also, I keep seeing people complaining about the Blind Asian Mystic trope, but I, for one, don't particularly mind. Because Chirrut has a personality and does plot-important things other than predict the future and also BAZE, but also because Star Wars finally has a major Force-user (???? or at least someone who's very close to the Force, or trying to connect to the Force) who is Asian. Fucking finally.
I think, for me, the biggest failing was Bodhi. Everyone else was only barebones but that was how it was supposed to be, and we knew their motivations, but Bodhi suddenly defected (I mean, he was instructed to by Galen, but it seems pretty clear that he knew what he was getting into), and we have no idea why (I headcanon some unrequited Bodhi/Galen which Galen manipulates, but that's just headcanon). Every other character has some sort of motivation, and Bodhi doesn't. And while Riz Ahmed was brilliant, he just couldn't fill that gap because it was a writing issue. Also, is Saw paranoid or did Bodhi have another purpose? Because that storyline was never properly closed up.
I loved Ben Mendelsohn's work as Director Krennic. He's brilliant and a wonderful actor, and I kind of ship him with Galen in a one-sided way. His feeling of betrayal is so personal.
And Anakin was very...Anakin (or at least Vader!Anakin). Right down to the double puns and annoyance with the Death Star (and I adored the tensions between him and Tarkin, and Krennic being taken down a peg or two). And the tiny glimpse of him without his suit was chilling, and that last scene where he lets loose and just destroys was awful. We don't see Vader at his full power in the OT for storytelling reasons, and for obvious reasons (i.e. no-one actually wants to see small children murdered onscreen in graphic detail) we don't see him actually properly letting loose in the PT, only the aftermath, but this made it very clear why he was so feared. I quite enjoyed Anakin (except some minor weirdness with his suit, especially in the last shot)!
CGI Tarkin and CGI Leia were both fine to me? And that was knowing they're CGI. Leia was more off than Tarkin, by a bit, a little more eerily mechanical—but that may be because Tarkin was eerily mechanical anyway so I didn't notice the difference?
And Leia. It makes so much more sense now that Vader's chasing the Tantive IV, and it must have taken so much nerve for Leia to outright lie to him when they both knew she's coming from Scarif (although it was a diplomatic mission, from a certain point of view). And she was captured straight after seeing Scarif, and she knew what the Death Star was capable of, and that makes Tarkin's interrogation so much more painful, because she knew what would happen, not theoretically but viscerally, and lied anyway. Star Wars loves putting Leia through pain
and so do I.
The visuals were gorgeous! I especially love Scarif, and it broke my heart to see it being destroyed, which was the point, wasn't it, the Empire perverting and destroying beauty?
The importance placed on Jyn's kyber crystal in the first half felt a bit weird to me, especially in a movie this short and with so many different characters to follow. Chekov's gun, and all that.
I am probably in the minority here, but I enjoyed the glimpses of politics we got and would have loved more. I love behind the scene stuff, and this film was basically hitting all the right places in my id, BUT I WANT MORE POLITICS OKAY.
And really, Saw Gerrera is called an extremist, but all the characters here were extremists, all devoted to their ideals to the point of exclusion of everything else, and that was very well portrayed, along with the costs of that extremism but also its advantages. And there are prices to pay, too, in lives (of the soldiers, of everyone who lives with that extremism) and deaths (not just of soldiers but of bystanders) and everything inbetween.
This was a dark movie, and I love that. Everyone dies-type angst is my thing anyway, but I adore the execution here. And the point of the movie was, I think, the cost of what we saw in ANH. Luke's final shot is made so much more poignant by the knowledge of the people who died to get to that point. And in Star Wars, we don't—I'm not saying we don't get to see the costs, because we do, but we don't feel the cost, usually. Because people die, but not on this scale. Not on this level of awful. The final forty-five minutes of RotS, Operation Knightfall and Order Sixty-Six and Padmé's death? That was what all of Rogue One was. It was an ode to the doomed, to the people who sacrificed themselves so that the galaxy could be free.
And the thing is, all those people were prepared to die. They were like Obi-Wan, in that sense. They'd reached the end of their purpose, so they chose to die; they knew they weren't coming back. Chirrut and Baze lost Jedha, lost their whole purpose, Chirrut finally found the Force and allowed it to guide him, and Baze, without Chirrut, was nothing; Bodhi redeemed himself; we see that Cassian was almost at his breaking point already and knew he wouldn't be coming back besides; Jyn—Jyn is the only one who may have resisted death, but even she was prepared to die to prove her father right. We have two generations fucked over by the Empire, the younger generation of Jyn and Cassian and Bodhi, the generation which came into being with the Empire, and the older generation of Baze and Chirrut, who watched the Republic fall; a tragedy spanning two generations. And all these characters (again, except maybe Jyn)? Were doomed and broken anyway. The Empire had destroyed them (indirectly, maybe, in Cassian's case) and the brilliance was that their deaths were one huge 'fuck you' to the Empire, at least in terms of the storyline.
And all these characters were archetypes, sketches; we got a clear sense of their characters but that was all. Their humanity, their personhood, was established, but we didn't get to get close to them. Their stories weren't ours; we knew them for these few brief moments but not more. And there was so much lost potential, so many lives wasted. There were sparks between Cassian and Jyn but we never got to see a true relationship because there just wasn't time; they should have had the time to connect and get to know each other, but they didn't, because they were brought together under stressful war conditions, because of the Empire. I came out of the film with so many 'ships, because they were all these moments of unfulfilled potential. All the characters were doomed and broken, yes, but at the same time, their death was tragic and yet necessary. They were soldiers and we never get to truly know them because we don't need to.
Rogue One is a story about prices being paid. It's not a story about people, not really; it's a story about costs and hard decisions and where lines should be drawn, and what marks the difference between right and wrong. It asks questions but doesn't give answers, and, in that respect, it's much darker than I thought Disney would go. Jyn and Cassian and Chirrut and Baze and Bodhi die, and they don't go down in a blaze of glory; they're not the heroes who'll be remembered forever. They're not Luke Skywalker or Han Solo or Leia Organa. As Gilraen said, they gave hope to the Rebellion, hope for the future, but kept no hope for themselves. And all those unanswered questions remained. It's meant to be a haunting film, and while it has points where it could be stronger, overall, for me, it succeeded. I walked out of the theatre questioning and shaken and unsettled, and pleasantly surprised. Rogue One is a darker glimpse of the Star Wars universe, and I think, quite frankly, that it's brilliant.