Rogue One: A review on an anthology that re-politicises the already political
Just last week I headed to the cinema at 11.30pm, wide awake and ready to throw myself tear ducts first at Rogue One. From my review of The Force Awakens, you should already know that I live and die by Star Wars – but I’m still cautious of blindly loving every single anthology, sequel, prequel, and tack-on that this franchise throws at me.
I say cautious, but caution never manages to dissuade me.
Before I get into the political side of things, I might as well start with possibly, from a consumer’s perspective, the most important thing: is the movie good?
The short and short of it is, yes, yes it is good.
From here, proceed at your own risk – this review is NOT SPOILER-FREE.
The beginning of the movie for me, was rocky. The Icelandic scenes of Eadu were rocky in location, but ultimately these were enjoyable, well-paced, and appropriate. It was when the film moved on from these, to introduce new themes and characters, that it lost its footing. Location after location, character after character, all introduced in the space of what felt like mere minutes – it was a little bit of a shambles, and truly had me worried that the film wouldn’t find its way back to a steady pace and narrative.
Much to my relief, it did.
The pacing improved tremendously, giving due time to all topics and most characters, and yet, I could still see this being a two-part film. Alas, anthologies like this one aren’t really meant to be more than a single film, so I understand, but I’m still a little sad. I love my babies now, and wish I had a chance to see them in more of this universe.
The characters in fact, also had a rocky start. Cassian Andor, at first, was a character I disliked. I already loved Jyn, and his efforts against her made me instantly pounce on him as a dislikeable character.
I was wrong.
By the end, I was sobbing away wishing the two had more time together.
I know, I know. Every time a film tries to shoe-horn in a hetero romance I die a little inside, and then the hopeless romantic in me gets swept up in all of it (except with the Avengers: Age of Ultron shoe-horning in Black Widow x Hulk – that was literally a crime against humanity). The same goes for Rogue One, and yet they surprised me when they didn’t kiss. I was both pleased, surprised, and disappointed all in one sobbing sweep, when they are huddled together at the end, waiting for the Death Star blast.
And truthfully? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s better I don’t get precisely what I want.
Anyway, who knows, it’s the Star Wars universe, they might actually be related.
What other characters had a rocky start for me? Chirrut Îmwe of all characters, had quite the shaky intro, and honestly, I didn’t warm up to him quickly either.
Now there’s no denying that Donnie Yen did a fantastic job of this character, but honestly? Chirrut’s unyielding faith in the force, as well as his repetitive quoting of the mantra “I am with the force, the force is with me”, seemed a little, well, forced. And yet, much like with Cassian, at the end of the film, when he continues to chant this mantra all the way to his death, I was openly sobbing.
Jeez Morgan, it’s almost like you’d forgotten you came to watch a film about people dying?????
Get a fucking grip child.
In truth, the whole team had me in tears, and by the end of it, they truly were #squadgoalz.
My last note, is that while there were a few Easter eggs throughout this film, my favourite by far was Cornelius Evazan’s cameo. This guy is apparently always ready to pick a fight.
So, this is where things get political. If you’re not interested in that aspect of sci-fi, then I suggest you go find something else to do, because I’m a card-carrying member of the ‘Sci-fi was created to challenge and expose political ideas’ club.
Let’s get into it!
Firstly, I’d like to point out the, erm, interesting point Disney Chief Bob Iger made at the premiere, which is that “[Rogue One] is not a film that is, in any way, a political film”.
Intriguing interpretation of a franchise built around defeating oppressive fascism through a rebellion. Or even a franchise that has the word WAR in its title.
Regardless, this is clearly a political film, built around one small throw-away line in ‘A New Hope’, and I’m still undecided whether it dealt with certain political themes tastefully, or offensively.
While many of the other films largely incorporate Nazi themes (even the logo/font you are so familiar with has its Nazi roots), the films often shy away from memorable, or recognisable scenarios, other than large groups of Nazi’s standing in formation in front of their leader.
This movie, however, has some scenes and scenarios that evoke uncanny likenesses to situations we might be familiar with. Troops fighting along the beaches could be considered a Gallipoli or Normandy salute, but what really struck a chord with me was the bombings in Jedha.
Perhaps it was because of the situations arising in Aleppo just days before the film came out, but these images hit a little too close to our galaxy, as we saw children stuck in strife, and warfare being carried out against temples and occupied townships. The dessert setting located in Jordan didn’t help either.
And this is where I’m stuck. Is it distasteful to touch on these subjects in film? Does this trivialise the true horrors the people in Aleppo are facing? Or is it important, in this modern Western society, for us to view these issues through a fictional lens in order for us to take action, or even understand the severity and inhumanity of these problems?
This is something I battled with throughout my politics & film degree, and I doubt me, nor anyone else, will be able to reach a definitive answer any time soon. All I can really hope is that the current horrors are resolved.
Now, while this film has been in the making for a long, long time, and can hardly have been directly referencing the bombings in Aleppo, it still must be aware of the climate it could be heading into. The Syrian war is nothing new, and they were certainly aware that there would be a coming election in 2016, noting a time of change – no matter who won.
Could they have predicted a fascist leader entering the White House? Surely not, and yet, it’s hard not to argue that the Nazi imagery fraught within films, Star Wars franchise included, have made it seem to many that the only fascists are those dressed all in black, with staunch, faceless, saluting armies behind them, and bright red banners waving in the distance. It can be hard for many to imagine that a fascist could come in many shapes and sizes, and so therein we could easily argue that trivialising war, and overusing tropes can be directly harmful to the way society views politics.
In terms of representation, the films main team speaks for itself, and all I can say is, thank the Gods above the original trilogy never mentioned the race or gender of the ill-fated Bothan’s we were lucky enough to delve deeper into in 2016 – a time when we can, and do, expect more in the way of positive representation.
In any case, politics is something Star Wars likes to imagine it can avoid, and yet Rogue One proves, politics is the very life blood of this franchise – it always has been.
TL;DR: This film is a welcome deviation, and a great start to the anthology series of this franchise. It has a rocky start, but has a great cast that made me cry buckets of tears. It is highly politicised, but I’m still undecided on if it’s a bad thing.