In some ways I love it. It’s an exciting nostalgia trip to hear lightsaber sounds through cinema speakers again. It’s exciting to watch young children aspire to be Jedi and Sith when they grow up. It’s great that the film industry has taken and nurtured one of my childhood film memories and delivered back a product that lives up to my high expectations.
However, I do feel somewhat over-filled in my appetite for a galaxy far, far away. Much like the impending Christmas dinner, you can only eat so much before you begin to feel a little bit sick.
So, along ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ has come in late 2016, promising us a fresh, fertile story of how the Rebel Alliance acquired the structural plans to the Empire’s fearsome Death Star. Sounds like great foundations to build a story about a group of plucky Rebel operatives performing the greatest heist the galaxy has ever seen? Yep, well, not quite…
Instead, Rogue One hits all the common story beats you’d expect from the Star Wars series; there’s shady, backwater Imperial planets. There’s mysterious Empire-run science facilities on inhospitable planets. There’s the evil bureaucracy of the Empire and their grey suited, clean shaven forms. There’s a space battle. There’s mention of the force. There’s a noble sacrifice or two. There’s X-Wings. There’s Stormtroopers. Vader. Blasters. Spaceships. You get the point.
My issue, is that for a film that uses the word ‘rogue’ in it’s title, it plays the entire thing a little safe.
We’ve got biennial releases of Episodes 7, 8 and 9 in 2015, 2017 and 2019. In these I fully expect the standard Star War’s fare of lightsaber battles, dogfight and the force. But I can’t shake the feeling that Lucasfilm missed an opportunity to produce something more interesting and alternative with this feature length entry to punctuate the in-between years.
They had all the setup and components for a Star Wars-style heist film; a rag-tag group of rebel operatives plan, prepare and sneak into one of the Empire’s top research facilities. Omit the dogfights and cancel the explosions. Or a story about Imperial spies and Rebel double-agents, performing a dance of deception and death in the heart of the Imperial capital. But they chose the safe and secure route. The standard Star Wars fare.
This isn’t Lucasfilm’s last opportunity of course. With ‘Star Wars Anthology: Han Solo’ in 2018 and ‘Star Wars Anthology: Boba Fett’ in 2020 they still have opportunities to try something new.
It’s worth making myself clear; I enjoyed Rogue One. I thought it was an entertaining romp around the galaxy. It explored some interesting aspects of living under the Empire’s rule and highlighted the morally grey area both the rebels and imperial collaborators might find themselves in. The location design was spectacular and the cinematography was excellent.
Rogue One is a good film, but it just tasted a little bit similar. I just wish they’d been a bit more roguish with Rogue One.