‘Rogue One’ Shows Disney Still Doesn’t Really Get ‘Star Wars’ (Commentary)
“Rogue One” is the best “Star Wars” film made in my lifetime. “Rogue One” is gorgeous and thrilling.
“Rogue One” is also a mess. And “Rogue One” looks like “Star Wars,” but it really isn’t.
When Disney released “The Force Awakens” back in 2015, I left my 8 p.m. showing feeling angry. Disney had captured the ships and the “pew” sounds and the explosions of “Star Wars,” without any of the heart. The movie breezed past character development and barely bothered to pause long enough to provide anyone in it with motivations. It felt like “A New Hope” on fast-forward, with all the “boring” (read: essential character moments and worldbuilding) cut out.
With “Rogue One,” it seemed Disney might right the ship. A sharper story concerning what might be considered everyday people in the “Star Wars” universe, it was seemingly devoid of magical space warrior monks, instead focusing on desperate Rebel soldiers and spies fighting an Empire wielding overwhelming might. Plus, it sounded like a “Seven Samurai”-type story, where a band of heroes came together to fight odds they cannot hope to surmount. It sounded like the kind of story that would help expand the “Star Wars” franchise to include more humanity and more variety.
“Rogue One” does hit those notes. It tells the story of the theft of the Death Star plans and never once is the name “Skywalker” uttered. It throws in too many callbacks and hews too closely to setting up literally everything in “A New Hope,” perhaps, but it focuses on the war on the ground in a way we’ve never quite gotten out of “Star Wars”.
But it also doesn’t really get “Star Wars.” It thinks it does — “Rogue One” is incredibly comfortable with its lived-in galaxy far, far away in a way nothing has been since Luke’s days on Owen and Beru Lars’ moisture farm — but like its prequel predecessors and The Force Awakens, it’s still hung up on the what of “Star Wars,” forgetting the who.
We need a family of friends, desperately
It’s easy to get bogged down in the ships, the planets, the weapons and the religion of “Star Wars” and miss the forest moon for its massive trees. The thing that really makes “A New Hope” timeless and endearing, the thing that has propelled the franchise to a rank of essential pop culture unmatched by just about anything else, isn’t the stuff that you see in “Star Wars,” but the people to whom that stuff happens.
“Star Wars” is ultimately a powerful story about friendship, and it’s that aspect that gives its fantastic world the humanity that draws us in. “A New Hope” never wastes a second that could be used developing the personalities on screen. Every line of dialogue builds the people and the world. Every…