Thoughts on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

As I am now on Christmas break, I thought it was high time to write a good old fashioned blog post talking about something of substance for a change.  Blessedly, I have more time on my hands at the moment, and therefore was able to see a movie I was very excited about – the next installment in the Star Wars universe (pun intended).  Whether this ramble turns out to be of substance or not, however, is yet to be seen.

I saw Rogue One yesterday afternoon with my siblings, and while I still have this film and all my consequential thoughts and feelings fresh in my mind, I thought I'd bang out a post about it.  This won't be a review per se – I have no intention of giving all the pros and cons, though some of that will happen anyway, or giving specifics or plot details – these are my thoughts only, to be laid out in a sprawling way I'm sure.  But here we go.

I have this uncanny ability? habit? quirk? of thinking a lot when I watch films.  Okay, so maybe that depends on the film – any Bond film may be an exception to this rule.  Most of the time, however, I watch a movie and think the whole time – about the worldview, the message, the little shafts of truth that shine through the plot (sometimes more brightly than others) and form that magical quality of good fiction C.S. Lewis constantly talked about and that eventually led him to faith in God.  I'm usually on high alert to these pieces of truth that allude, as Tim Keller calls it, to the truest, greatest story of all – the Gospel (I'm paraphrasing).  That is what I noticed/looked for in this movie and what I want to talk about today.

The first thing that struck me while watching the movie was the theme of hope woven through the whole story.  In fact, at times it seemed to be quite a main plot point (here's a plot overview, if you care).  There's this line the main character, Jyn Urso, says early on in the movie: "We have hope.  Rebellions are built on hope."  Normally, this line wouldn't have struck me so hard, but it just so happens I've been listening to Mere Christianity by the one and only C.S. Lewis on my commute, and I had just listened to the chapter wherein Lewis compares Christianity on earth and Christ's incarnation to a rebel force landing and fighting back against the evil kingdom currently occupying Earth.  Christians, the Church, are united in fighting back until the true King returns to make everything right again.  I love that parallel, so when I heard that line in the film, I immediately made the connection.  We are in the middle of a rebellion against evil, and we have that hope of everything coming right, being made new, and good winning in the end.  That's why, when we're smack dab in the center of something really terrible and apparently hopeless, we have hope and expectancy rooted in something that's sure. Moments like these happen throughout the film, and that thread of hope runs deep.  To me, that was the strongest theme of the film, and the thing that held everything together and made all the sacrifice (spoiler?) ultimately worth it.  I'd recommend this film for that point alone – the hope that never gives up.

Another really moving (at least for me) aspect of the film was regarding one character in the squad of sorts that assembles alongside Jyn as the story progresses.  His name is Chirrut Imwe, and he is a blind ninja/Jedi/superhero, whom everyone else calls a dreamer because he still believes in the force and lets it guide him, which is especially poignant because he cannot see.  He was perhaps the most moving character in the film for me, and there's this moment in the film that made me lose it.  At a really critical moment, when it's not looking good for Jyn's friends on the ground, Imwe walks from their hiding place alongside a bunker and tries to cross a portion of the very active battlefield in a move that seems suicidal.  As he walks – he doesn't run – he holds his weapon in front of him and chants the whole way, "I am one with the force, the force is with me" over and over again until he finds the master switch and flips it (it's literally called the master switch).  His story ends tragically, but I was, needless to say, a little teary after that episode.  Now, sure, go on, the force is not an allegory for God, or the Holy Spirit, or whatever, but that scene was heavily spiritual if you ask me.  I mean, here's this blind guy who crosses a battlefield where lasers are just totally missing him the whole time and he's saying over and over that the force is with him.  We might not ever have to cross a live battle zone blind to flip a master switch, or ever be in a physical battle at all, but there is something deeply profound and downright Biblical about that scene at least in the context of the life of a Christian that I just can't stop thinking about.

Finally, this squad I've been talking about is pretty great.  It's made up of misfits – most great squads are – and it is the greatest.  Every person in the group trusts each other by the end of it, and they have realized that none of them can do anything by themselves as well, or accomplish as much alone as they can as a group.  And that's the final little parallel I want to talk about.  Relevant Magazine does these posts about the Gospel of Star Wars as each movie comes out, and in the one about Rogue One, the writer refers to the Scripture that talks about the Church of Christ as a body, how each limb is essential and the body cannot act without every part, just as every part fails without the whole.  The individuals of the group in Rogue One are each essential to the mission in unique ways, and as they do their part of the job, complete their own bit of the mission, the whole beautiful thing comes together and changes the course of history.

This installment of the Star Wars story seems to zero in on individuals fighting battles as a group.  From this perspective, the importance of single people doing the right thing – the job right in front of them – takes center stage.  And that's something you miss in the other Star Wars films – as much as I adore them – the characters in those are the tip of the spear, the big names, and you miss out on the ordinary people being brave in the details, in the smaller picture.  Rogue One is a smaller picture, it's the details, it's the little characters with names no one really knows, being heroes right where they area and choosing to do the right thing even if they are never able to see their sacrifice pay off.  It's incredible.  This film is desperate and sad and gritty, but it's real, and far more relatable than a story about a princess, a dashing scoundrel, and a desert-boy with the force.  And for that reason, it'll stick around in my head for a while.  I loved this movie and I think everyone should see it.

May the force be with you.

Note: I am not dissing the original Star Wars trilogy at all.  Those three movies are in my film canon, if you will, and I love them to the Death Star and beyond (too much?).  Rogue One was simply a totally different perspective that I found more deeply relatable and human experience-y than those movies, and I appreciated that a lot.  But gosh, Han Solo and Leia buns forevaaaaa.

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