Dec 19, 2016

Rogue One is the Most Important Movie of the Year (Spoilers)

As I write this, America waits to hear the result of the Electoral College vote. It's likely, no matter how much we wish things to be different, that Donald Trump will be elected President of the United States.

While the world watches the most dangerously unqualified and narcissistic person to ever sit in the oval office, my thoughts are in a galaxy far, far away....


I plan to revive my Watch and Learn series in 2017, and I guarantee that Rogue One will be included. It's an astonishing movie; it brought me to tears, made me laugh, made me pump my fist with excitement. This isn't just the Star Wars movie we deserve, it's the Star Wars movie we need.

You see, Trump's victory in the US presidential elections comes on a wave of growing hate, bigotry, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, corruption, and lies that would not look out of place in a dystopian novel.

That wouldn't look out of place in a galaxy far, far away.

Screenwriter Chris Weitz posted a tweet about Rogue One being a story about a diverse, multicultural Rebellion fighting back against a white supremacist Empire. It was deleted in response to negative reaction from Trump supporters, and the fear that a boycott might hurt the movie's performance.

Well, with a global $155 million take on its opening weekend, and $290 globally, even before opening in China, it's safe to say audiences wanted this movie, regardless of what any of Trump's supporters have to say.

People want hope.

And that's what Rogue One is. It's the perfect way to end the year; after everything the world has been through - the deaths of scores of celebrities and childhood icons, DAPL, rising global temperatures, decline of bee populations, Brexit, Trump - we needed to remember that there is still hope.

Make no mistake - the tone in Rogue One is desperate. The Rebellion is internally fractured, with many of its successes being the result of assassinations and sabotage, not the acts of heroes. It lacks the military force for direct conflict, losing its flagship and the admiral of its fleet to Darth Vader's star destroyer. When Bail Organa dies on Alderaan in A New Hope, the Rebellion will have lost all but one of its strongest leaders. And on top of it, the Empire has a new, deadly superweapon.

Narratively, we're shown the Empire's might through very personal moments. As each member of the Rogue One team dies, the situation grows more desperate. The use of the Death Star's main weapon on a lower-power setting shows its versatility, that it can be deployed to take out smaller targets. And it allows a harrowing look at the weapon's destructive power, without taking away from the impact of the destruction of Alderaan. We see how useless Baze's missile launcher is against the Imperial walker, as its head menacingly turns back. You can almost see its metal face snarl as it makes ready to fire again, only for the x-wings of Blue Squadron to swoop in and blow it apart. A nice call-out to how it will be an x-wing pilot that takes out the threat no-one else can in A New Hope.

Lastly, Darth Vader's slow, dreadful march through the Rebel flagship as he tears the Rebel soldiers apart illustrates just how terrifying an opponent he is. He is quite literally unmatched by anyone in the Alliance. In this scene he personifies the Empire's absolute superiority over the Rebel Alliance.

Does any of this feel familiar? When an insurmountable force of evil threatens to stamp out loosely-organised and under-equipped freedom fighters, what chance is there to stop it?

But the data disc is saved. Jyn Erso and her team, every fighter pilot and commando on Scarif, the crews lost in the space battle, all give their lives so that one fragile thing can be passed into the hands of Princess Leia aboard the Tantive IV. 

That's what we have to remember. That's what this story is here to tell us. That even in our most desperate hour, there is hope.

And rebellions are built on hope.


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