MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen.
Well, it’s another year and another Star Wars movie. Actually, this is not an “official” numbered film in the Star Wars sequence, but rather “A Star Wars Story” – a stand-alone film that serves as a sidebar adventure to the longer saga. Disney plans to release a new Star Wars film every two years and a new Star Wars Story in-between. You could call Rogue One a minor film in the series, but it’s a minor film that still cost $200 million to produce (compared to last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens that cost $245 million) and runs over two hours in length.
You could also say that if you’ve seen one Star Wars movie, you’ve seen this one. That movie is 1977’s Star Wars; Rogue One is nothing more than a visual depiction of the plot shared in that film’s opening crawl (“It is a period of civil war…”)
The film’s main protagonist is Jyn Erso (Jones), the daughter of Galen Erso (Mikkelsen), the inventor of the Death Star. You would think that would be enough fame for any child to desire, but for some reason (as the prototypical “rebellious teenager”) Jyn decides to join up with the rebels against the Imperial Forces. She is accompanied by tried-and-true sidekicks: Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a former Imperial ship pilot who has decided to switch sides; Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), an assassin with a sensitive side; and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a wisecracking droid. There’s also Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yu), a blind swordsman that reminded me of Zatoichi, a famous character of dozens of Japanese martial arts films. There’s also Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), a new bad guy, joined by more than a helping handful of familiar faces from the saga that have brief cameos. George Lucas may not be writing these movies any more, but the names are still predictably goofy.
Everything is very well done and the space battles look awesome. The acting is top notch, although the characters are all a bit underwritten. But the song remains the same: Empire = Bad, Rebels = Good. May the Force Be with You.
There are plenty of science fiction series that plow the same field again and again (are you listening to me, Godzilla?) and there’s nothing particularly wrong about creating lightweight entertainment. But regardless of how much fun I had watching Rogue One, it is a totally unnecessary movie. My knowledge of all things Stars War did not go into hyperdrive; if anything, this movie made me wonder even more about how the rebels could get their hands on so many spaceships (and the fuel to propel them).
Capsule review: Wow! Meh. We are living in a crazy period in film history in which big screen blockbuster spectacles fill our multiplex screens and worthy films of ideas lie overlooked and underseen. And, frankly, in this movie, it is just about a draw when it comes to measuring the ethics of The Empire vs. The Rebels. When so many characters jump sides, you wonder if there’s that much difference between the sides to begin with.
If there’s a cautionary tale here for people of faith, it may be that we’re not that different from the things we rebel against, either. “See, I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19) Not yet, Lord, but we’re hopeful.
Three halos: An above-average episode in the Star Wars saga, but it’s just above average.
Two pitchforks: Scenes of violence, death and destruction.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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