Star Wars 3.5: Martyrs’ Crossing.
It’s always the rogue that excites us…
ROGUE ONE: A STARS WARS STORY is the bad boy of the STAR WARS universe. He turns up in his black charger with the heavy metal blaring and he makes our panties moist.
Easily boasting the best production values of all the eight STAR WARS films to date, ROGUE ONE is a stand-alone adventure that yet insinuates itself into canon, answering questions that we never thought to ask. A film that dares – and succeeds – in showing us the action that leads directly to the opening scenes of EPISODE IV, and also explains why the deadliest weapon in the galaxy possesses that improbably silly flaw no bigger than a womp rat.
A dark tone permeates the film. The Galactic Empire is in ascendance, and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is sent to fetch engineer Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to complete his work on the Empire’s new planet-killing weapon. Galen, in self-imposed exile on a gloomy planet with his wife and young daughter, Jyn, refuses Krennic’s “invitation.” But Krennic has brought his black stormtroopers, deadlier than those white ones that can be pushed over by Ewoks (–wait! Are they saying BLACKS are more dangerous than WHITES? Racism from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, eh? At least this explains the beige-colored stormtroopers in later scenes – they’re the Mexican ones).
The black stormtroopers (called Deathtroopers, or simply “n-word-troopers”) kill Galen’s wife (they actually aim and everything), and Jyn hides. Whereupon the n-troopers, as per their whitey brothers, look around perfunctorily, don’t find her, and leave. No opening doors or looking under beds. That’s work for Beige Troopers.
Young Jyn is rescued by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker on a constant bad hair day), and then we skip to Fifteen Years Later (so that another Star Wars Story can be inserted into this time period to answer more questions no one is asking). Jyn is now Felicity Jones, strong hot woman with the cutest buck teeth in the Dagobah system, captive in a cell. Is this just director Gareth Edwards’ fantasy? Mine too.
Rescued by Rebels, led by Cassian (Diego Luna), Jyn is taken to the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 (which piques my memory about someone mentioning it in another Episode, but I confess I’m not going to waste precious man-hours looking it up on Wookieepedia). Jyn is questioned by Rebel hausfrau Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) about her father Galen, who has succeeded in completing this “Death Star.” Jyn wants nothing to do with the Rebels or the Empire, yet the Rebels send her on a mission to find Galen, headed by Cassian, who inexplicably doesn’t put the hard word on the hotter-than-a-lightsaber Jyn.
Unbeknownst to Jyn, the mission is to assassinate Galen.
The Rebels land on Jedha (and I stroke my pointy beard and wonder what that name could be referring to in the STAR WARS universe), to reconnect Jyn to Saw Gerrera (who speaks that way because he’s obviously sniffing helium from his breathmask). He shows Jyn a hologram of her father Galen explaining the flaw in the Death Star, and how he built it in, unbeknownst to the Empire, so that they would not have a perfect, indestructible weapon. Galen weeps over his lost family, and the fact that so many children in Africa had to starve due to spending money on a tentpole movie just to explain one plot contrivance in EPISODE IV…
The wondrous thing about this movie and its predecessor, EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS, is that effects technology allows us to see very familiar objects in stunning new ways: star destroyers hovering over cities, thus truly sensing their immense scale; closeups of x-wing fighters vertically taking off, then powering their engines into the atmosphere; a closeup of the Death Star’s firing disk, with TIE fighters and star destroyers flying close by providing scale. And when the Death Star fires on a planet to annihilate just a city (to test its power) it is actually more visually enthralling than a planet’s destruction, because the filmmakers are employing better physics laws to show the shockwave of the blast spreading outwards akin to a hydrogen bomb explosion. Such is the fate of Saw’s city, and he embraces it like a man sick of sniffing helium.
Notable mention must go to those Empire employees standing on that ledge when the Death Star beams shoot past them. All they’ve got to shield themselves – from beams that can destroy planets – are their forearms. Oh, and they lean away from the beams in a cunning fashion. Design by Galen. And we thought that exhaust port shaped like a womp rat was his only flaw. By the time he designed those ledges, it was obvious he just didn’t give a fuck any more.
Governor Tarkin takes the credit for the successful killing of the city. Wait — Tarkin?! Deceased Peter Cushing’s character from EPISODE IV is recreated through the magic of CGI combined with a lookalike actor (Guy Henry). Young Princess Leia is also here through that same voodoo. And it is seamless! The fanbitches can whine all they want in faux-sophistication, but they wouldn’t have even noticed if the studio didn’t tell them. But why are they calling him “Governor”? Does he graduate to a Grand Moff in the space between this movie and the next, which is about three seconds? Upon examining his rank, we see he is still, in fact, six blue gumdrops, three red gumdrops and three yellow gumdrops. Booyah – he’s a closet Grand Moff! (He has to stay in the closet because you know what the Bible says about moffs: “If a moff also lieth with moffkind, as he lieth with a wookiee, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death…”)
Krennic, whose rank is only six red gumdrops, ambitiously visits the big black boss – a guy named [okay, lay those orchestra stabs on me: dun dun daaaah!] Darth Vader! (played by Spencer Wilding and Daniel Naprous, voiced by James Earl Jones) – to tell him the Death Star is his invention. Vader thooms the “official” report: “There IS no Death Star! Jedha was destroyed by a mining disaster!” Spreading propaganda like any good Hitlerian/Trumpian government. Then he psychically chokes Krennic. Because Lord Vader only speaks to six blue gumdrops or higher.
Galen is killed in a raid, Jyn meeting him as he dies, in a touching scene. STAR WARS is a saga of fathers and sons – expanded here to father and daughter. The filmmakers (director Edwards, with writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy) have done themselves proud, retaining the somber and war-ravaged tone throughout the film. Even the scene of x-wings coming in to strafe Galen’s facility is directed like Spitfires closing in on Berlin. Galen’s last words to Jyn bring a tear to the eye: “I can’t believe… they still paid me… for those ledges…”
Cassian has a bead on Galen – but doesn’t shoot. In essence, he disobeys orders. Why? Don’t tell me he’s not harboring thoughts of staying on Jyn’s good side to one day do her bantha-style. Though when she returns from her dying father’s side, now fully willing to join the Rebels, Cassian can’t help hissing at her like a jilted girlfriend, “Suddenly the rebellion is real for you! Some of us live it! You’re not the only one who lost everything!” Hey, save some of that rage for the makeup sex, nigga!
Galen told Jyn of the disk that holds the information of the Death Star flaw — now hold on a minute! — In GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO, the 1965 technology showing aliens storing their secret plans on a reel tape looks quite ridiculous to us modern viewers. Not even a cassette or Beta – a REEL TAPE. How stupid that looks, right? In ROGUE ONE, this interstellar civilization with faster-than-light travel, lightsabers, anti-gravity devices and an actual telekinetic “force” that can manipulate matter and free will, keeps its secret plans to the Death Star – on a CD?!
To make an analogy: we have telephones, email and twitter – so we don’t communicate via Pony Express any more. It doesn’t exist as an “alternate method” of delivery – it’s simply non-existent! When you have hyperspace ships, faster-than-light holograms (communications instantaneous over hyperspace distances) – imagine how much more futuristic storage of data would be. That’s the point – you can’t imagine. And neither can the filmmakers, writing the CD-theft scene as if Tom Cruise is stealing a NOC list. All that’s missing is the Scientology.
Jyn importunes the rebel base to steal the disk from an impenetrable Empire facility, with the stupid line, “Rebellions are built on hope” [“Hope” – an overhyped, unfulfilled condition that can never be attained, because once it is fulfilled, it ceases to exist. It’s a nonsensical conundrum.] But no one wants to grab a nut, so she –ahem– goes rogue and recruits ten men on a singular mission to infiltrate the Imperial facility, which is apparently the Tower Records of the galaxy, with its stacked walls of compact disks.
Jyn and Cassian (whom we wish would just kiss and get it over with) steal a Rebel ship, and use the fake call-sign “Rogue One” when the tower asks for authorization. It’s a pointless charade, because they didn’t need that call-sign as a password to start the ship or open a gate, it’s not a code for a rendezvous time or place, it’s not signifying anything other than the title of the movie, and they didn’t fool the tower, that replies, “There IS no Rogue One–!” Then they takeoff anyway, like the Rebels they are. Uh, but now they’re rebelling against their own Rebels — Does this make them Rebel Rebels? (So that’s what David Bowie meant.)
Onboard, in various states of undress:
- K-2SO, an Imperial robot reprogrammed for rebel alliance and comedy relief (voiced by Alan Tudyk, once the pilot of Serenity, here playing the robot pilot of Rogue One, with specific directions to “sound like C-3P0 or we’ll break your legs”).
- Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), an Imperial pilot reprogrammed for rebel alliance and plucky crew member.
- Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind quarterstaff fighter, who repeatedly intones, “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me. I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me…” Sounds like he’s trying to convince someone – himself. He chants as he walks through a hail of stormtrooper fire without getting hit… but then, even without the chanting, anyone can walk through a hail of stormtrooper fire without getting hit.
- Baze Malthus (Wen Jiang), a cool cat who reminds me of Toshiro Mifune (and anyone who reminds me of Toshiro Mifune is aces!). Baze has Chirrut’s back, and a mysterious ambiguously-gay relationship with him.
- A few nameless extras dressed like Private Ryans that will get shot before getting their SAG cards.
Running on the beach like Omaha, but instead of Germans, looming AT-AT horsies shooting at us. Like using a machine gun to swat a fly. Great strategy, Empire. And you wonder why you’re going out of business.
Wookieepedia claims Imperial stormtroopers are “the most feared fighting force in the galaxy” – yet here, as in EPISODES IV, V and VI, they are once again merely fodder for blaster-fire, bitch-beatings, strangling, and kicking in the nuts. K-2SO tells the Rebels trying to infiltrate Tower Records, “There are 89 stormtroopers in your path – you’ll make it 33-percent of the way before you’re killed.” Really? My calculations show differently: 89 stormtroopers in your path – 74 will be shot by blaster-fire, bitch-beaten, strangled and kicked in the nuts, and the other 15 will fall over for no reason at all. I was right.
ROGUE ONE is a well-written story full of treachery and double crosses. And not just by the bad guys. It is tragic and somber, with the lack of a John Williams score lending it a wholly new feel. (Michael Giacchino composes.) Rich with legacy, the movie would not be as enjoyable without all the nods, winks and references: they pass the Whills (the original STAR WARS was called Journal Of The Whills!); there’s the guy in the crow’s nest pointing a hairdryer at ships taking off; a camp cameo by C-3P0 and R2-D2; a belligerent cameo from the ugly guy in the cantina who picked a fight with Luke, etc.)
I sense a disturbance in the geek force. Many say there was no need to explain the flaw in the Death Star. I think it was David Lee Roth who said, “Showbiz is selling you stuff you don’t need, and after you buy it, you wonder how you did without it.” So maybe we didn’t need ROGUE ONE, but how did we ever do without the sexiness of Felicity Jones in that guerilla suede? Daisy who–? What I miss is that trailer scene (cut from the film) of Felicity walking forward on a catwalk, drawing her blaster, while a TIE fighter rises in front of her. Yeh, we all know what that TIE fighter signifies, with its one glaring eye, rising like that, aching to shoot…
The geeks have already shot their wad on YouTube with “Everything Wrong With Rogue One” or “Why Rogue One Sucks” and – here’s a laugh! – complaining about the moviemakers using every opportunity to connect it to EPISODE IV, which is the reason it exists!
And we’ve circled back ‘round to the man in black.
Fuck Jake Lloyd. Fuck Hayden Christensen. THIS is the Darth Vader we know from EPISODES IV, V and VI, in all his black magic malice, tweaked to Clint Eastwood badassery. As we close in on the opening minutes of EPISODE IV, Vader’s lightsaber sizzles to life – the one and only lightsaber in this movie – as he confronts Rebels who have the CD they just stole from Tower Records, the infamous “plans to the Death Star.” He puts out his palm, deflecting their blaster-fire; he gestures with his fist and they go flying against the walls, clutching their throats, thrown against the roof, hurled aside like chaff. THIS – is the mighty Darth Vader, tearing through these plebian soldiers with a predator’s grace.
As one of the Rebels desperately tries to hand the CD through a gap in a closing door – the lightsaber cuts through the Rebel’s body and through the door, and Vader shoves the door open with the body impaled on the lightsaber! Truly reinstated himself as the number one Villain in the galaxy.
How evil is he? Well, even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommended heat-resistant Perspex, he’ll be damned if he’s gonna put up any protection on those ledges. And if the men didn’t like it, they could always give the job to some Beige Troopers…