Rogue One: a Star Wars Story, movie reaction + book review

The latest movie in the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi, started showing here last December 13. I watched it the first day so the Internet can't spoil the movie for me. I actually watched it twice in the theater, and I'll write my reaction here soon. Star Wars has been very popular since the first movie A New Hope in 1977 and it has a big (and intimidating) fanbase. I just watched the original trilogy after The Force Awakens, which starts a new story. As a casual fan, I feel that I'm not 'qualified' enough to write about it. Star Wars has the most dedicated fans on the planet, and on the internet, there are many analyses, speculations, and theories we can't keep up with.

So before The Last Jedi's showing, I watched the prequel trilogy and the 2016 stand-alone film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I actually watched Rogue One in the theater when it showed in December 2016. This is one of my favorite films ever, and I don't get tired of rewatching it. So I will write what I love about it.

In A New Hope, the famous trio of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, and Han Solo team up to destroy the Empire's superweapon, the Death Star. The crucial thing that they had was the plans for this superweapon. Rogue One tells the story of how they got the plans in the first place. The Empire is ruling the galaxy and there is the Rebel Alliance trying to fight it.

The story begins with Orson Krennic taking Galen Erso, a former scientist for the Empire. Krennic invites Galen to join the Empire once again. His daughter Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is taken by Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whittaker), an extremist rebel. The Rebel Alliance doesn't agree with Gerrera's tactics, so he's striking his own war against the empire with his own group. He raises Jyn as his daughter. When the story begins, Jyn is on her own, abandoned by Saw. On her way to an Empire labor camp, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) of the Rebel Alliance and his reprogrammed Empire droid K2SO 'rescue' her for questioning.

It turns out that an imperial pilot named Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) defected from the Empire to deliver a message from Galen to Saw about the empire's plan to build a superweapon, the Death Star. Cassian, Jyn, and K2SO go to the moon Jedha to find the pilot. Jedha is considered to be a Holy City and a place for pilgrimage for the many faiths in the galaxy. The Empire has occupied the city to mine kyber crystals used to power the Death Star. In trying to fight away the stormtroopers, they meet a wayward blind monk named Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and his gun-wielding partner, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). They find out Galen's message, but the Rebel Alliance doubt Jyn and Galen. Cassian has strict orders to kill Galen on sight.

Galen's message was the key to destroying this Death Star, so the group heads out on their own to the planet Scarif to steal it from the Empire's archives. This is a really simple run-down of the plot, which is much more complicated than that. In this movie, there are no Jedi heroes, just ordinary, imperfect people who try to work together and do what they think is right. Unlike the sleek prequels full of neat CGI, Rogue One is dirty, gritty, and raw. We see real rebels on the ground, fighting and sacrificing their lives for a cause they believe in.

Bodhi Rook is anxious, and in most parts of the movie, he is suffering from temporary insanity from Saw's lie-detecting space octopus pet. He worked for the Empire, but Galen's message inspires him to take the risk. Jyn has many crimes in her name and doesn't believe in the Rebels' Cause at first. Cassian has worked for the Alliance since childhood and kills people for the mission if that's what's needed. K2SO, a droid, is the funniest in this movie, with his sarcastic comments and pessimism. Chirrut Imwe is a Guardian of the Whills, a religious order who believes in the Force. Baze Malbus used to be a monk like him, but lost his faith but still looks around for Chirrut.

K2SO, Chirrut Imwe, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Baze Malbus, Bodhi Rook
There are many reasons why I love this movie. It's suspenseful, has action, but it's also a great story driven by strong characters. They are not perfect, but their flaws make them more convincing. Even if stories take place in space or some other fictional universe, good stories are still about people. The relationships and their development were also explored.

This film has a subtle romance in it (that's how I interpreted it), especially between Jyn and Cassian. I love that it wasn't spoken out loud, but shown in the way that they sacrifice and save each others' lives. I still cry whenever I see the ending! Another interesting relationship is between Chirrut and Baze. Chirrut may be blind, but just watch him fight. Him and Baze bicker like an old married couple. K2SO always throws a little shade at Jyn and their interactions are always amusing. There were funny scenes, there were heavy emotional scenes, but guaranteed - this movie will make you cry.

Its great to see diversity in the movie with the two characters played by Chinese actors Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe and Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus. Diego Luna (Cassian Andor) is Mexican and Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook) is British with Pakistani roots. I love that the main protagonist is a badass female but we also see Jyn's weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

For me, Rogue One is the best Star Wars film. It is about a war, with the pain, sacrifice, and death that comes with it. I think it is a much better film than all the prequels combined (though I actually liked Revenge of the Sith). Darth Vader appears in all his terrible, frightening glory. You just have to watch the film to know what I'm talking about.

As I wrote on Facebook (this contains spoilers, so skip to the book review if you haven't watched the movie yet:

I've watched Rogue One many times now but I still cry at the end. I really feel for Jyn and Cassian - their 'romance' is subtle and words are unspoken but the audience knows it. They knew they were on a suicide mission with no chance of escape. The way they looked into each other's eyes as the elevator went down just *kills* me (metaphorically speaking). They knew they were going to die. In that last moment where the nuclear explosion was enveloping the planet Scarif, they ended up near the seashore. Cassian's last words were, "Your father would have been proud of you." 

Jyn doesn't say anything anymore. They grasp each other's hands and embrace - Cassian just holding her, Jyn looking at the bright explosion with tears filling her eyes but they never had time to fall - then in an instant so fast, in a flash of intense light, they were gone. Fully obliterated, turning to stardust, together and one with the Force.

The Book
I also read the novelization of Rogue One written by Alexander Marsh Freed after seeing some great reviews on it. Its the first time that I read a book adapted from a movie (we're used to movies being made from books). Its also a better experience even if you already know the story, since your imagination while reading is already aided by the visuals in the movie! Personally, I like reading the books more than watching movies because you're more immersed in the story and the characters thoughts and feelings.

The book captured the action and emotion from the movie well, and there are some more insights on these characters. The book made me appreciate the movie more and its also great by itself. I actually cried again! I was talking to my sister about how great the book was and she should read it, but she didn't because she told me that she didn't want to suffer all over again! I remember that when we first watched it we went out of the theater crying like idiots.

Some quotes:
But Jyn had turned to him from the control panel looking like the last survivor of a war, and she’d smiled in a way he’d never seen before. It hadn’t been a smile predicated on anticipation or courage, or one touched by sadness or doubt; just a smile so ordinary it seemed to change Jyn from a hero out of myth into a woman he might have known and understood.
He hadn’t known her, didn’t know her, of course. There wasn’t the time.

The rumbling overwhelmed all other sound. Jyn tightened her grip on Cassian, and he found the strength to hold her. The world grew brighter, emerald at first and then a clean, purifying white. In Jyn’s mind, the cave below the broken hatch was illuminated with the strength of a sun, and then the walls turned to dust and there was no longer a cave but only her spirit and heart and everything she had ever been: the daughter of Galen and Lyra and Saw, the angry fighter and the shattered prisoner and the champion and the friend.
Soon all those things, too, burned away, and Jyn Erso—finally at peace—became one with the Force.

Post a Comment