So here we are, once again faced with a new Star Wars movie. I’m doomed to spend a day having to sheepishly admit—like somebody living under a rock their whole life—that I haven't seen all of the Star Wars movies yet.
But I suppose this time things are different. For one thing, the new movie, Rogue One, takes place before the beloved trilogy. It’s not really a sequel, per se, but more of a pre sequel. If only there was a simpler term for such a thing.
What is the same is the communications blackout most of us put ourselves in before squeezing in a screening. We're more worried about spoilers than we are about fake news articles*. I'm with you on this front. I've tried to avoid spoilers for Rogue One whenever possible, but there's got to be limits. Some things aren't spoilers. Some things are just predictable. But just because an ending is predictable, does that mean the movie itself is no good? We spent three prequel** movies knowing the fate of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and company, and that is pointed to as one of the many reasons those films don’t work.
Now I, before seeing the movie, have decided that most of Rogue One's heroes are not long for the galaxy. I'm not a soothsayer, nor am I an insider. I just don't remember seeing Felicity Jones or Tudyk-bot*** in A New Hope (1977), and logic alone dictates my conclusion. Does this make the movie doomed, like its prequel progenitors****
Now, I have written all of the above words before seeing the movie. I intend to continue my thoughts after I have finished watching it. See you on the other side.
Look at that, I was right. They all died. And yet, I think the movie largely works. Yes, Peter Cushing 2.0 seems like he is straight out of an above average video game cut scene, and the less said about retro Carrie Fisher, the better*****, but the whole package is satisfying.
It’s a satisfying movie, for no other reason that we got Darth Vader back, if only for a few moments. He has a brief interlude in the middle of the movie, wherein he exchanges villain-speak with Big Bad Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), which isn’t terribly thrilling beyond James Earl Jones’ welcome return. Later, though… Oooh, boy. He makes a return to the film in a big way. In that moment, he is not the dimwitted Lothario/precocious column of nonsense of the prequels. Nor is he the conflicted dead-beat dad of Empire or Jedi. He is the same mysterious figure that emerges from the myst in the first minutes of A New Hope. He is Darth Vader. The moment you hear that breathing and the see the red light of his saber, there is little else to do but hope that you had your affairs in order. I could have watched that scene over and over again for two-and-a-half hours******.
Would any of this have been ruined had I not surmised the fate of most of the characters? The ending is inevitable, but our heroes make every moment count for as much tension as possible. At the end of the movie, I’m about ready to believe these people just might make it. Also, Chirrut Îmwe is one with The Force, and The Force is with him.
So if Rogue One is a thrilling edition to the canon, and it doesn’t take much to figure out how the movie ends, then what excuse did Episodes I-III have? Were they just terrible? Was it all Hayden Christensen’s fault, even the movie he wasn’t in? The world may never know…
It was Jar-Jar. We all know it was Jar-Jar’s fault*******.
**Oh, I get it…
***Tudyk always dies. Too soon? #leafonthewind
****Pre-prequels? I’ll stop.
*****But these are nitpicks. In that spirit, here are some more thoughts along the same line. I think that the Artoo/Threepio cameo was extraneous, if for no other reason that there was a much better opportunity for them to appear in the corridors of the Tantive IV (yes, that is the name of the ship, look it up) in the final moments. They could have bickered just the same, and to the same effect, and it would have made more sense. Also: Oh Jek Porkins, Where Art Thou? #williamhootkinsforlife. One last one: Why didn’t Hannibal Lecter both know that he put the flaw in the Death Star design, and where that flaw was located? Because the movie would have been a lot shorter that way, that’s why.