Just minutes after posting this online, the news broke that Carrie Fisher had passed away. She was 60-years-old. She, of course, played the beloved and stalwart General Leia Organa, but also worked as a writer, producer, and speaker.
RIP Carrie Fisher – and thank you for being such an awesome female voice in Hollywood these last few years as Star Wars and Leia again became a part of the popular culture zeitgeist.
May the Force be with you.
So, it has been a busy holiday season for Star Wars fans. We would like to start by adding our voices to the chorus of those sending well wishes to Carrie Fisher. We paused on posting this in hope there would be better news about her recovery, but we are hoping that the fact that there has been relatively little news lately is a good thing.
Back to our endeavor, Adam, Art, and Joan have composed some initial thoughts about what they saw on the big screen. There are a variety of perspectives here, but it marks the start of a broader conversation. Onto our individual thoughts about the movie:
Adam: As a standalone, the movie works. It is a well-constructed, self-contained, narrative that ends, similar to the ‘Titanic’ known ending … with everyone dying. Here is where it goes off the rails: when you try to fit it, like a not planned for Tetris piece, into the timeline. The audience is expected to forgive for hasty CGI (thinking Leah here), the claim that “we are a diplomatic mission from Alderan” when Vader was just on your ship (Joan: he wasn’t on her ship, he was on the rebel flagship and she is bluffing. Obviously. Adam: excellent point, particularly on the bluff. The timeline still feels rushed to me, for some reason. Still worked, overall), oh, last week (though we don’t KNOW that for sure … but you damn well know that Vader never forgets a face – or a ship – if he is coming for you), and other glitches here and there. Personally, I was hoping for a spy, cloak-and-dagger storyline, since “many Bothan spies died” in what must have been a shoot-out that no one remembers happening. (Joan: the Bothans died for the second Death Star, not the first. Also, the line is “… many Bothans died to bring us this information.” No mention of spies at all. Adam: thank you for the catch. Merged them in my head.)
Let the trolling begin …
Art: I really loved the movie. I acknowledge Adam’s points, but I think that what we see on-screen is a storytelling moment when storytelling itself is in flux. If we acknowledge Lucas’ argument that he had all three or even nine movies planned, we still see a fairly static Joseph Campbell-esque, hero’s journey, closed story. This is not part of those stories. Instead, we have a loosely connected story of Rogue One that explains the fatal defect in the Death Star which has plagued questioners of A New Hope as well as some new characters that add depth to the Star Wars Universe.
This shows us the difficulties inherent to creating a complex Polymediated Narrative out of an existing story and poses a challenge for the next generation of storytellers. Can we do it better? Can the trolls create or just comment on the flaws in what exists? Stories like this excite me about the worlds we can build and there will come a time where we can tell stories in the same universe where we don’t need to CGI in the familiar characters, but I think the filmmakers are right in that we are not there yet. Unlike a Star Trek reboot where we have to retell the story of Kirk and Khan, this is a new story that adds depth and complexity in ways that challenge us to rethink what we know. Maybe Vader is not as powerful as we give him credit for. Who knows?
Joan: So I’ve been really frustrated with all the Star Wars fans ripping on Rogue One for what they perceive as inaccuracies. Let me dispel a few of the most obnoxious:
- “many Bothans died…” they sure did! But that line is in Return of the Jedi, and Mon Mothma is referring to the second Death Star.
- The cgi: gimme a break! How else do you expect Leia and Tarkin to show up in this movie? It was obvious, but if you can tolerate emotional robots and fancy laser swords, complaining about cgi seems just a bit hypocritical. Also I just rewatched the prequels, and trust me, nothing is as bad as the green screening in those films. Ouch.
- “They ignored the plot of A New Hope” I don’t even get this one, TBH. There was literally footage from ANH. They even set up the fact that there’s an empty position in the Red Squadron for Luke to take up. They illustrated — quite adeptly, I felt — why the rebel troopers on Leia’s ship were SO terrified and ready for action. They showed us why Darth Vader was having none of Leia’s bullshit and it explains why Leia was hanging out over Tattooine on the outer rim when she claimed to be headed for Alderaan. And, of course, it finally puts to bed the argument about the exhaust port and how they knew it was there. As a bonus, it also gives us a bit more on the triangle between Tarkin, Vader and Palpatine (which is REALLY fleshed out in The Clone Wars animated series).
So now that I’ve aired those grievances, I’ll talk about the film itself. I enjoyed it, but I was disappointed by the narrow scope. I had hoped that the film would take the opportunity to comment on the current state of governance and the sociopolitical climate — a seemingly futile struggle against a malicious and all-powerful dictator, a narrative centered on hope — could have been a strong call for action and solidarity, especially when tied into the Force for Change initiatives. I think last spring’s Captain America: Civil War did a really excellent job of this and the critics took note. Instead, with Rogue One, we get a serviceable and entertaining Star Wars film that sadly doesn’t have much emotional impact. I have serious problems controlling my own empathy, but I watched Felicity Jones sobbing with a dispassion that was oddly disappointing. She did a fine job performing, but the script just didn’t set it up well enough to get a good tug on my heart strings (specifically I’m thinking of Jyn watching her father’s hologram and cradling Galen as he died). Jeff and I speculated that part of the reason for this was the absence of John Williams. His scores are the soul of the Skywalker Saga, but I can understand the many reasons for not employing him on this film. Nonetheless, the movie suffers as a result.
Thus, as a Star Wars fan, I thought it was decent. I left feeling satisfied and with new food for thought about that galaxy far far away. As an irrational fan girl who should know better, I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see Asohka but I’m not caught up on Rebels, and perhaps that would shift my expectations. As a scholar, I’m a bit disappointed. I think they could have pushed harder and said more. I would have liked them to really give the Breitbart Boys something to protest.
I’ll end with my personal re-ranking of the series according to my personal preference: 7, 5, 4, 6, 2, R1, 3, 1. Hardcore SW fans might criticize my positions on 7 and 2. All I have to say is that I’m an African-American woman and a feminist. Rey, Finn and Padme are so vital for me that those characters’ spotlights outshine everything else.