Rogue One: Dark? Not so much.

My entire family, except for one of us, went to see Rogue One on the same day.  We didn’t go together and we didn’t discuss when we’d go, but on Christmas Day, we discovered that all but one (and you know who you are!) had coincidentally gone to see the movie on the same day.

That one hold out meant none of us could discuss the movie, even though we really wanted to.

I feel I should be careful in this post, too, to edge around possible spoilers, although it does seem to me that everyone in the universe had already seen it — the Christmas weekend was a busy one.  Also, I’ve had to delay this post a couple of times, so now it’s the end of January — I think everyone has been exposed to the fuss by now.

However, there’s at least one person in my family who hasn’t seen it, therefore there are others out there who also haven’t seen it who would prefer to avoid spoilers.

So I will tiptoe…


Before we saw Rogue One, I was particularly careful not to read anything about the movie.  I watched the trailer.  That was it.  I have learned that even posts that claim to contain no spoilers often spoil by implication or hints.  So I dodged them.

(If you haven’t seen the movie yet, and want to avoid all hints and implications, perhaps you should bookmark this post now and come back to it when you’ve seen the movie.)

However, it is difficult to NOT read post headings in my RSS feed.  One of them raised my brow.  It said something about Disney “lightening up” the movie, that it would have been much darker than it ended up being if they hadn’t.

I tucked that away for processing after the movie.

Is the movie dark?  It depends on your interpretation.  “Dark” movies are generally called that because the themes are not simple, positives ones and the characters are not always happy and don’t always get happy endings.  By implication, dark movies are adult movies.  Even kid movies that deal with heavyweight themes generally tend toward an upbeat ending.

But this was Disney.  Surely, of all the movie production companies in the world, they understand the power of an upbeat ending.  Yet Rogue One is an adult movie.  One of the major themes is that of betrayal and loyalty, which is not kiddie fare.

Also, it made me open my mouth in surprise to see androids physically assaulting people and shooting guns.  I had to think about why it shocked me.  Nowhere in the previous movies has any android assaulted humans or picked up a gun.  They’ve mostly been there to provide cute moments and laughs.  C-3PO and R2D2 are the viewpoint narrators for movies 4-6 (or the first three movies, depending on whether you’re referring to the cannon, or when the movies were made), and neither they nor BB8 look anything close to lethal.   The other factor that played into my surprise is my classic SF literature background. Asimov’s Robots have three laws that prevent robots from harming humans.  Asimov wrote novels and anthologies filled with humans and robots trying to figure out how to work together, and the three laws were central to those conflicts.  A robot harming a human in Asimov’s universe was unthinkable.

But apparently, that doesn’t apply to the Star Wars universe, and that was why I was a little shocked.  To start with, K-2SO is big.  He’s taller than everyone around him and big across the shoulders.  Plus, the first moment of physical manhandling happens early in the movie, setting up the rest of it.  I can remember thinking “Okay, so all bets are off, then,” when it happened.  It was that much of a shift in perception.

However, to call the movie dark is really stretching it…especially as Rogue One ends exactly where A New Hope starts.  Even the name of the original movie — A New Hope — helps explain Rogue One.  With A New Hope tacked onto the end of it as they have done, it kills any of the “darkness” of Rogue One and makes it the perfect opening movie of the sequence.

I ended up liking the movie overall.  I liked what they tried to do with it.

love the way it slots into the first trilogy and make it a four-installment series.

I think the thing I liked the most was the feel of the movie.  It felt and looked the same as A New Hope.  It had the same gung-ho determination, the same battle against the odds.  Of course, forty-plus years on, the movie can’t actually look the same or even feel the same — not really, because movie technology is light years away from what was even cutting edge in the late 1970s.  Despite that, Rogue One feels like it belongs with A New Hope, et al, far more than Episodes 1-3, that had many fans of my generation blinking in confusion, going “what happened to Star Wars???”

Now that I’ve seen Rogue One, I have to wonder and to hope that Disney will back up and fill in the huge gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.  There is a whole universe of fan-fiction and official novels that give the intervening years some incredible story arcs.  Or Disney could make up their own — although, so far, they’ve proved to be smarter than that.  They’re abiding by the lore already created (as much as they can) and not pissing off fans by the droves.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the scale of the movie.  I watched it in 3D and some of the vistas and scenes were breathtaking.  Having said that, though, this is a movie you could easily see on the small screen and not miss anything important.  It had the vistas, yes, but the story is about people and the decisions they make.  At its heart, Rogue One is an intimate story.

Too many of the big action movies sacrifice character arcs in order to service action sequences.  Not so in Rogue One.  If this is the direction that Disney is intending to take the Star Wars franchise, I thoroughly approve.


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