Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thoughts on Rogue One

There is a lot more to say on the things I have been writing about for the past few days, but it feels like too much. That is at least partially due to new examples arising every time you turn around - like racist reactions to Maxine Waters, for example.

So I am going to take a break and write a little about popular culture. Rogue One is almost out on DVD, so it should be okay to talk about it now.

There were some things I really liked about the movie. Seeing more diverse casting was great, and I thought it struck a good balance. From The Force Awakens we know that post-clone army the Empire will start becoming less white and male, but here they still are. That makes sense, and yet we see enough people outside of the Imperial Forces where the diversity is less surprising. It's not that they couldn't do better, but it looks like they are at least thinking about what has been done, and trying to improve it while still maintaining continuity. It does seem like there could have been some more women volunteering for Rogue One, but these thought patterns are deeply entrenched and I know it.

I did not love Felicity Jones, and I would have liked too. Ben Mendelsohn was great - it's just not a good performance, but Krennic's character was such a believable mix of traits. That's not saying that I like Krennic as a person, or would like working with him - I just recognize him. I would totally hire Ben Mendelsohn.

I think it would have been fine to just recast Tarkin.

One of my favorite things was Donnie Yen's performance. Technically I guess you did have martial arts sequences in Star Wars already with Ray Park, but I try to forget those movies. Mainly, the idea of someone devoted to Jedi ideals, but without the opportunity to train, I can see that happening, and reasonably coming out like Chirrut Imwe. The way the Jedi were spoken about, it makes sense that someone would be trying.

The most annoying thing to me was when Jyn Erso dashed into the battle to grab a child. I know, that sounds like a good thing, but there was a parent immediately there, and then one assumes the child and parent and everyone else there will perish when the city is destroyed, making it a manipulative attempt to show us that Jyn cares without doing anything else to advance the story. It's just like that kid in Titanic. Storytelling time is precious, and you need to use it wisely.

Forest Whitaker is becoming one of my favorite actors, and I liked Diego Luna and Riz Ahmed very much. This gets us into what was hard for me about the movie, though that doesn't mean that the movie didn't work.

"Rebellions are built on hope." It's hard not to think of that as relating today. And let's make it clear, what we need to be rebelling against is hatred and oppression; it needs to be a rebellion of good. We need to be able to oppose in a way where we don't become as nasty as them.

That made it a little horrifying to see the toll that rebellion took on Saw Gerrera. His humanity has become hidden in a way very similar to Darth Vader's - it's impossible to miss. The worst thing is his torture of Bodhi Rook, which is cruel and unnecessary. The message from Galen Erso should be enough. Maybe if there were information missing, then there could be concerns about Bodhi's trustworthiness, but that is a non-factor. And it's stupid, because Rook's ability to recover his mental faculties ends up being very important for everyone and that was in peril.

You can justify that, because showing that torture is cruel, stupid, and unnecessary is something that needs to be said more (especially with a "24" revival), and Gerrera is no longer part of the Rebel Alliance because of his more extreme tactics, only the main rebel alliance is pretty dirty too.

One of the first things we see Cassian Andor do is ruthlessly murder an ally who is about to be a liability, and he is getting orders from his superiors to kill Galen with no one showing any concerns about lying to Jyn or murdering someone who could be trying to help. The volunteers at the end, including Andor, are volunteering to justify the terrible things they have done and to make it worth something. They are more noble than the Dirty Dozen, but it's not everything I was hoping for.

I wanted a reminder that goodness will triumph; that you do not have to play dirty to win. That may have been naive.

Instead, it was a reminder that people who have done rotten things can still find their humanity and sacrifice for the greater good. That could also be naive, but it can also be important. There are good reasons to not give up on people who seem horrible and obtuse.

Rogue One wasn't the movie I wanted, but it may have been the one we deserve.

Anyway, I already wrote the story I wanted. Maybe I need to go back to that.

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