glitter_n_gore: (leia)
[personal profile] glitter_n_gore
Fellow geeks, it has been a good year for us. This is the sixteenth movie I made an effort to see in theaters in 2016. (I'm going to list the rest of them in a Year End Review post in a couple weeks; watch this space.) However, this year was rough in just about every single other way. I'm not going to talk politics on this blog. Not because I don't have an opinion or don't think it's important, but because I am still struggling to find the right words. If you know me, you don't need me to explain why living in America right now feels like wading through quicksand. But then, when I saw this recut trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I wept:



After wandering through the 'net chatter elsewhere, I've discovered this wasn't an uncommon reaction. So now, after finally seeing the movie, let's talk about why we all needed Rogue One.



WARNING: SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT.

Although it seems a bit daft to call "spoilers" on a prologue episode to a movie I've already seen too many times to count. The plot of Rogue One is a lengthy preamble to the events in the 1977 movie--namely stealing the Death Star's schematics in order to find and exploit a weakness to take the station down. On one level, it's a MacGuffin hunt. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her team have to get the battle station plans from a secure location to the Rebel Alliance before the Empire figures out what they're up to--or at least in enough time that the Empire won't be able to stop them. That's it. That's the whole conflict. But this story is so much more than that.

As I've always said, the most important part of any story is character. Possibly the most remarkable thing about this entry in the Star Wars universe is how quickly it got me solidly invested in such a large cast of brand-new characters. Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy have penned one of the tightest, cleanest scripts in action movie history, injecting life and personal motivation into every human, alien and droid, no matter how much screentime they get. Every player has a very small, seemingly inconsequential part until they’re all working together toward a common goal. Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe delivers this message of relentless faith in the face of astronomical odds; Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor warns Jyn about the dangers of becoming complacent or neutral during a war this big, and how not everyone has that luxury; and Mads Mikkelsen’s Galen Erso, Jyn’s father, and an instrumental cog in the Empire’s machine, takes a character whose actions have universe-shattering consequences, and brings them down to the intimate and familiar so that those actions matter to Jyn, and to us.

Director Gareth Edwards carries these people through a universe that feels rugged, scrappy, and lived-in. Every detail in every frame is organic and unpolished. It’s easy to imagine the universe stretching far beyond the four corners of the screen. It just feels real, and immediate sometimes to an uncomfortable degree. This movie shows more than any other what life under the Empire at the height of its power was like. Everyone will have to make some hard choices before this whole mess blows over. Another contributing factor to the realism is diving into the movie without the traditional opening crawl or John Williams’ score. I never realized it before, but that fanfare and written intro creates a bit of distance that makes the story seem more myth-like. It does still have the "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," but this movie feels believable in a way the other seven don't.

Then there's the truly bizarre CGI rendering of Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing's faces to match their appearances in A New Hope. I was not at all prepared for that, and egads, it is weird. That is not a level of computer-generated realism I need in my life. I’m just saying.

Honestly, I feel pedantic pointing out that it’s not perfect, as nothing made by human hands is ever perfect. But it’s exactly what I needed at the end of a very hard year. This story is about revolution, courage, and sacrifice, but really it’s about hope. These people are tasked with doing the right thing knowing all the while that they might not live to see the results. The difference is we, the audience, do know what happens next. In fact, I’d make sure you have a copy of A New Hope standing by, because I for one am gonna need to see this story vindicated.

Go. Watch. Bring tissues. And May the Force Be With You.
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