Force Adjacent (Rogue One, 2016)
Taking it’s plot from about two sentences of Star Wars: A New Hopes Opening Scrawl, this Star Wars Story focuses on the Rebels who got the Death Star plans carried by R2-D2. Focusing on Jyn Erso, daughter of a brilliant engineer, Rogue One follows her forced recruitment by the Rebel Alliance in an attempt to get the information. Along with her father, Erso has another connection the Alliance wants to take advantage of. After escaping the clutches of the Empire, Jyn was raised for a time by Saw Gerrera. The Alliance parted ways with him over his extremism, but feel they now need his help.
What follows is an exciting espionage and war film, different from what we have seen in the past…and yet familiar. While there are brief glimpses of some recognizable faces, our central cast is pretty much new. The film is a bit darker than other entries, showing a side of the Rebel Alliance not often addressed. Some have expressed problems with this. While I had not given much thought to some of the darker implications of the alliance, I cannot say this take is unreasonable. The idea that people are sometimes doing things they struggle to justify as being in the greater good makes absolute sense. Certainly, it may seem out of place if you are used to thinking of the Alliance as morally pure.
Jyn is an interesting character who despises the Empire for a pretty simple and personal reason. They took her dad and killed her mom. She seems to have soured on the rebellion though (feeling betrayed by Saw) and given way to cynicism. Meanwhile, Cassian Andor is a dedicated Rebel spy who plays out his role without question. At least until he is given a side mission that makes him question his moral compass.
A real standout character is the reprogrammed Imperial Droid K2-S0. He is mouthy, sarcastic and also the brawn. Whereas C-3PO up-tightly delivers in depth information about the odds, K2 casually tosses out comments along the lines of “The odds are bad” and just leaving it at that. Then there is the blind monk Chirrut Îmwe. He fights like a Jedi Master, but is not a Jedi. He also fights with a staff, rather than a lightsaber. His sighted companion Baze prefers blaster rifles and does not buy into the Force at all.
The film does suffer a bit from the problem of many prequels. The obsessive desire with filling in every blank results in a way that it can start to interfere the film it is “setting up”. This leads to the film dying to pull right up to the beginning of a New Hope.
Admittedly, it feels a little odd having no potential Jedi (Chirrut does not use force moves beyond a certain Daredevil styled super hearing) or lightsaber duels. The Force is spoken of, but not really seen in action beyond Darth Vader.
In the end, however, the film more than overcomes these things. It is exciting and fun, while having an edge more in the vein of Empire. I found Rogue One immensely satisfying.