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I really loved Rogue One! As my friends Carmine and Jan wrote in their posts (in English and Italian), it’s definitely deserving to be a full part of the franchise. I don’t want to spend more words on this aspect, so I suggest you to read their posts. Only one note: you are totally right Jan, this is no spin-off from the official story. In fact this is a tie-in, as it is defined in the comics world!

Anyway what I want to do here is just to list what made me think that Rogue One got it right.

I was noting down these 10 points on my mobile while watching the movie, now I am sharing them with you, but BEWARE: in order to do it I will have to write about the story of Rogue One, so MAJOR SPOILERS are waiting for you below.
If you haven’t seen the movie or you do not know anything about it but you don’t wait to be spoiled, please leave this page NOW. All sorts of spoilers, characters revelations, plot of the movie etc etc are waiting for you after the Read More line.

I repeat: major spoilers after the line below. Pass it at your own risk.


Well so you made it! Thank you!

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Rogue One is a great Star Wars movie

Now it’s time to start: then things I noticed in Rogue One, that make me think they got it right, and made a very good Star Wars movie in my opinion. Of course I am very curious about your opinion, so please comment (and share!) this post and let’s spend some (more) time all together in a galaxy far, far away 🙂

Let’s start with the list (and with the spoilers… so if you are still reading I assume you are fine with them) :

1. the music

I admit that I was disappointed by the lack of the iconic John Williams fanfare that we all love, at the real beginning of the movie after the first scene with the child Jyn being separated by her family. Then a different music kicked in after the title (with no yellow, sliding intro text, wow!), only vaguely resembling some passages of the original theme. At that point, what I thought was: Finally.

They dared to change! they dared to move over with something so iconic and crucial as the very theme opening all movies so far! The new music by Michael Giacchino is really good, and by the way you can listen to it on the official Disney channel on youTube, here is the full playlist. I am sure that Episode VIII will go back the the official theme, but I guess this also worked as a test: being a not-fully-official part of the franchise, they could play with it a little and test what could be changed, the reaction of the audience, etc. What I say? well done, guys!

2. the Empire

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Palpatine has won. The Jedi knights are just a memory, starting to fade. Yes, the Senate is still there (it will be canceled during Episode IV, as you might remember) but the galaxy far, far away is under heavy military control – and you can feel it. The amount of stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, heavy weight vehicles, armed Imperial officers everywhere is overwhelming. Propaganda is spreading, even the kid Jyn has a stormtrooper doll as a toy (OMG is it already on sale somewhere btw??!). Jyn is saved on a prison planet – can you imagine what this means in terms of power and repression?The crucial dialogue about the Imperial flag between Jyn and Saw Gerrera (more about him later…) is totally enlightening: the common people will keep their eyes down. They will not have the luxury of a political opinion. The Empire is triumphant, and you can only see its servants struggling to get more power and consideration, as so very well described through the character of director Krennic.

3. the sprawl

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Cameras slow down and show details and aspects of street life in Jedha, as never before in any other movie. There is commerce, there is food, finally showed while being cooked, sold, bought and eaten (and yes, Jyn as a kid had blue milk – Bantha milk, someone said – for breakfast…); there are shops, ordinary people, working class people, and everything under the pressing presence of the Empire. There are street thugs, as the infamous Cornelius Evazan, on whom Jyn stumbles upon: he apparently manages to somehow escape the planet too, since a few weeks or months later he will be killed by Obi-Wan in a pub fight at Mos Eisley on Tatooine. I loved this depiction of the sprawl, the suburban underprivileged area made famous by cyberpunks novels, which I could really recognize and feel in the not-so-brief camera movements on Jedha.

the planets

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So many worlds in Rogue One! Jedha and Scarif are the ones where most of the movie happens, but we also have Lah’mu, the agricultural world where Galen Erso tries to hide himself and his family from the Empire. The world is not named, just like another one hosting Vader’s castle, where he is visited by Krennic. But we know from Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo tweets that it is…

https://twitter.com/pablohidalgo/status/809197397947469824

Vader’s place is as creepy as it is fantastic, and I guess it’s too much to be shown just for a short while, in a not-fully-part of the franchise movie. Maybe Episode VIII with Kylo looking for more Granpa memorabilia?
Anyway there’s still Eadu to be named, where Galen Erso meets his fate and his daughter for the very last time, and Wobani, where we meet Jyn as a captive, when she is freed by the Rebels… who bring her to Yavin 4. It’s seven worlds in a single movie, much more than we were used to so far, and I think it’s really helping to give us that feeling of facing a galactic Empire, able to reach out everywhere to fulfill its plans. Also, I can’t stop thinking to my countless hours spent playing all Jedi Knight series video games, visiting a lot of different planets with Kyle Katarn (I still hope they will make him appear on Episode VIII, btw…) – then I saw the giant Jedi statues first, and seeing them now, ruined and collapsed in the sands of Jedha, is even more touching.

the continuity

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Here’s Saw Gerrera from the cartoons series Star Wars Rebels.
I keep saying to all my nerd friends that Star Wars cartoons series are a gold mine for continuity, good stories, great characters, and this must have been heard somewhere at Disney too. Saw Gerrera is coming directly from the cartoons stories, which happen a few years before Rogue One: we actually first met him and his sister in the Clone Wars cartoons, trained by captain Rex, Anakin and his padawan Ashoka Tano (why she is not appearing anywhere…), then we met him in Rebels, while he attempts to create his own Rebel movement, and here in the pic we see him with the now-old captain Rex – yes, exactly, he survived after receiving the infamous Order 66 from Palpatine himself, and had a role in the shaping of the Rebel alliance. Isn’t this alone a great story? But there’s more: someone says that the astro-droid from Rebels,  Chopper, is in the room with Mon Mothma while she discusses the attack to Scarif, and some speaker meanwhile calls the name of general Syndulla, which is Hera, the pilot of the Ghost – the ship of the protagonists of Rebels. The internet is already full of people able to swear that they also saw the Ghost itself parked on Yavin, and flying with the rebel fleet in the skies of Scarif. Maybe we will get to see a battle of Scarif in Star Wars Rebels too, anyway this has been confirmed by Star Wars Rebels producer himself. I don’t want to add more to the long list of references (more than easter eggs… there’s no chocolate to crush here!) that are found in Rogue One, from the kyber crystals to the aforementioned Vader’s castle etc. What I love to underline is that most of these references are totally undocumented in the previous movies, and they come either from comics, or novels, video games, etc. No invented-in-five-minutes bullshits as midiclorians, here; there’s so much more to dive into, than the double trilogy, and here it has happened way more than ever. Again, well done!

Tarkin

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When Krennic starts talking about the Death Star with some officer-in-charge, I could recognize him from the back, the hair, and from the blurry reflection of his face in the window: he was Tarkin. For a very long instant, I laughed to myself, thinking: see? they will not make him turn, the original actor died in 1994, there’s no way his face could be shown here.

And then he turned, and it was him, alive, standing, talking and glancing around with his evil eyes.

I was really caught by this. Of course I know more than many others, what is the true power of computer graphics nowadays, but… knowing it is one thing, seeing it in front of you with such an impact, is totally different. Since I kept totally away from any kind of news about Rogue One (as I did for all the other movies) I didn’t know about the “CGI Tarkin”, as he is getting named online already. Wow.

the other “classic” characters

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There is a bunch of classic Star Wars characters appearing here and there in Rogue One. I mean classic as coming from the classic movies: we already mentioned  Cornelius Evazan and his walrus-man friend. Also Mon Mothma is obviously there, leading the Rebel Alliance and its council; behind her, senator Bail Organa appears a couple of times, one calling out for captain Antilles (yes, the first man killed by Darth Vader in movie history), and another one answering Mon Mothma’s request to go look for “that friend of yours, the Jedi”, to call him back.

Senator Organa talks about Obi-Wan without naming him, but saying that the Jedi “served well during the Clone wars”, and mentioning that he will send someone he “blindly trusts” (which is his step-daughter Leia, of course). Together with Organa are the two droids that he acquired a few years before, directly from Padme Amidala ship: R2D2 and 3PO, after the memory wipe he required at the end of Revenge of the Sith. We just have a short glimpse at them, and that is good too. This story is not about them.

Also, the full squads of X-Wing pilots are there, and we get to understand how Luke will get codename Red-Five in A New Hope, since we see the original Red-Five crushing his X-Wing on the energy shield covering all Scariff.

What I loved most, is the total understatement covering all this classic characters. Not a word on them (and in many cases, neither from them!). A great respect for the continuity, without pushing it too hard, and a lot of connections to feed the most hungry die-hard fans, without disappointing the casual viewers (who do exist…. even though I cannot understand how comes) .

the collective action

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Sure, the movie tells the story of Jyn Erso. So she is the protagonist, right?
Not so much.
More than in every previous episode (and much more than in the majority of movies nowadays…) this is about a collective effort. It is true that the first half of the movie builds up on the character of Jyn, her family and her story, but once she accepts her call for adventure (Hero’s Journey, anybody?), the question asked by Baze Malbus to Jyn does the trick: “How many more do you need?”. It’s a team, moved and put together by different reasons but ready for the same sacrifice, for the same aim. And they will sacrifice everything, to that aim. I loved it: no Hollywood happy ending here; a group of heroes die to achieve their aim, which will bring some greater good for everybody. That really embodies the spirit of every Resistance, in history before than in my opinion. Great.

the Alliance

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Rogue One is when the Alliance gets real.
It’s there, perfectly depicted in the tense debate in the council, where you have people willing to fight at once, others considering to surrender, others trying to avoid the conflict. We also get to learn that Saw Gerrera, one of the first to be actively fighting against the Empire, is considered a dangerous extremist, thus isolated and not connected with the Alliance any more. More, we learn from captain Cassian Andor that all the rebels joining the Rogue One team have done “terrible things”, during their fight against the Empire: one is done by Cassian himself in his first appearance, when he kills in cold blood an informer and so supposedly, an Alliance friend, which could not escape the dead alley they where trapped into. Jyn Erso already underlined that his father has been killed by the Alliance bombing the Imperial compound while they were trying to save him (or to kill him, according to the secret orders given to Cassian, which he refuses to comply with).
It’s not black and white, definitely. In the original trilogy we got to understand that even the personification of evil, Darth Vader, could have some good in him. Now we clearly see that the good ones can do evil too, and they indeed do it: the first victim of war is innocence, as they say, and here it is happening in front of us. Again, great move.

Darth Vader

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He’s here.
As all the star wars addicted nerds everybody, when I first saw him in the trailer, I jumped on my chair and started to shout. Vader in Rogue One as at the top of his obscure power and strength. He didn’t get much screen time, just three appearances and a reference in a conversation by Tarkin, but it’s enough, I would say. We see him first in his castle in Mustafar, leaving a healing tank to meet Krennic, giving him a force choke as a response for Krennic’s begging for attention and consideration in the eyes of the Emperor – and leaving him live in the end, with one of his epic sentences: beware not to be suffocated by your own ambitions. Then we see him briefly, arriving too late to stop the ship with the Deathstar plans.

In the last sequence, we see him at his best: a smokey alley, the red light of his lightsaber cutting the dark, and the whole crew of the rebel ship killed while he is just walking down the corridor.  He fails, because the plans are delivered to “CGI Leia” 🙂 to kickstart Episode IV, but the face of the rebel soldier facing Vader when the doors opens tells it all. Pure terror, in front of the most dangerous and evil weapon of the Empire. Wow.

So these are 10 things which in my opinion made Rogue One a great Star Wars movie.
Since I got the news of the loss of Carrie Fisher while starting to write this post, I would like to close with her line, which is also the closing line of Rogue One:

What is that they brought us?
A hope.