This holiday season marks several milestones, including the first standalone Star Wars movie. Rogue One debuted this month and is set immediately before the events of 1977's Episode IV: A New Hope, answering several of the questions raised by that movie. In many ways, Rogue One defies what we've come to expect from a Star Wars movie: there is no opening scroll, no Jedi, and no hope — this is a dark movie, more akin to a war film, and is inappropriate for children. That's all in stark contrast to the lighter fare of the original trilogy, which resulted in Kenner toys being popular Christmas gifts; I would be astonished and mildly horrified if any of Rogue One's cast were found under the tree this year.
For all those differences, I liked Rogue One. It belongs in the Star Wars universe and shows a different side of it, both establishing and emphasizing the enormity of the Empire and the desperation and necessity of the Rebel Alliance. There are plenty of hooks and tie-ins to A New Hope that longtime fans will appreciate — though I can't imagine that anyone not well-versed in Star Wars lore will even understand this "standalone" film.
To that end, I was surprised and disappointed that Rogue One had no apparent bearing on The Force Awakens. Last year's Episode VII raised many questions, and it seemed reasonable that the next Star Wars film to be released would answer some of those questions. After all, this franchise is now being developed by the studio responsible for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which practically requires you see three movies a year; I expected Disney to give us every reason to see every Star Wars film as well. But ultimately, the characters of Rogue One, while well-written and acted, are forgettable — I walked out of the theater not remembering almost anyone's names.
The story is co-written by John Knoll, Photoshop co-creator and ILM special effects maven. I interviewed Knoll nine years ago about the impact TRON had on the evolution and acceptance of computer-generated special effects. Knoll was already an industry luminary a decade ago, but I had no idea he'd go on to earn a writing credit for such a blockbuster film.
While Rogue One expands the Star Wars universe, it doesn't move it forward: the franchise was fine without it, and it's not required viewing for continued enjoyment of the new trilogy. I saw The Force Awakens twice in theaters and then bought the Blu Ray; by comparison, while I much enjoyed Rogue One and recommend it without hesitation to Star Wars fans, I doubt I'll ever see it again.
There are many good holiday movies in theaters this season, of which Rogue One is but one. But even Star Wars can get into the Christmas spirit, as seen by our favorite Wookie singing one of his favorite carols:
That's our obligatory Christmas Eve video — but there's still one more occasion to mark: this month is Showbits' tenth anniversary. It was ten years ago, on December 15, 2006, that the site launched, reviving a message board I'd previously operated on the Syndicomm Online commercial service. It was a member of that board, Peter Watson, who encouraged me to reimagine the bulletin board as a Web 2.0 blog. I chose the WordPress CMS with which to do so — a decision that has profoundly impacted my professional development and career.
This month marks 10 years I've been using WordPress. As computers go, I think only the Apple II has had a more profound impact on my life.
— Ken Gagne (@kgagne) December 18, 2016
While I may no longer blog often on Showbits, WordPress remains a tool I use daily to promote causes I'm passionate about. My thanks to Peter, who remains my friend to this day, for setting me down this path.
Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, and holiday season to all!
2 thoughts on “Rogue One is a one-hit wonder”
Firstly, thanks for the call out. What became Showbits seemed such an innocent suggestion those many years ago!
It seems I have different views about parts of Rogue One. You had trouble remembering the names of most the characters (and to be fair, so did I), but I have to wonder whether being “forgettable” was at least semi-deliberate? Despite not knowing more than the basic outline of the plot beforehand, I wasn't at all surprised at the path the ending went down. These are not and never were ongoing characters!
I loved the idea of a movie that expanded on events just before A New Hope, but I’m not sure how that could ever have (realistically) expanded on events 30 years later in Episode VII. And given that there are more standalone movies planned, perhaps some of your questions will be answered in time.
Lastly, it's interesting that you feel this is not a movie you want to watch again. Apart from when the original trilogy was re-released with updates, I've never repeat-viewed any Star Wars movie at the cinema. Yet Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie I'm probably going to watch again, just to try to pick up more of the Star Wars universe references! (Ideally after watching A New Hope again first!)
Thanks for sharing your take on Rogue One, Peter! Regarding the memorability of the characters, I thought Anita Sarkeesian summed it up neatly:
"It fails to make us care about the individual characters who are swept up in this conflict. The film is so densely plotted, so busy advancing the particulars of its story, or plowing through its many visually impressive action scenes, that it rarely takes the time to breathe and let us get to know the people who are doing the fighting."
Perhaps that's why I'll likely not watch this movie again: a story hangs on its characters more than anything else, and I enjoyed this film's action sequences more than its characters.
As for tying into the events of thirty years later: The Force Awakens introduced multiple characters whose parentage is mysterious. I thought we might get some insight into that in Rogue One — but I guess the timeline was a but off for that to happen.
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