Rogue One

The film Rogue One didn’t sit well with me. It was a hodgepodge of all the best bits from other Star Wars films, but beneath the surface, it just didn’t have substance.

Now that some time has passed since the film’s release and I’ve had a chance to think about it some more, and now that more people have seen it so I’m not at as much risk of spoiling it, I’ll go into some more detail. (Spoilers do follow.)

Lots of little things bothered me.

  • A big deal is made of Jyn’s necklace. We see her mother give it to her. The Force-sensitive monk Chirrut comments on it, at their first meeting. Later in the film when Jyn needs strength, she holds it close. But nothing more is said about it. It’s an interesting macguffin which is then ignored.
  • What’s with the interrogation of Bodhi (the pilot) by Saw and his tentacle monster? “The unfortunate side effect is that one tends to lose one’s mind,” says Saw, and sure enough, Bodhi seems a little confused afterwards … but then he’s fine.
  • The whole plot revolves around the Rebel mission to retrieve or kill (well, just kill) Galen Erso, the scientist who created the Death Star’s weapon. But what’s the point of doing all this after he created the weapon? Seems a bit late by then, eh?
  • Jyn’s group goes to Eadu to find him. Cassim takes a sniper rifle and camps out upon a nearby ridge with a good view of the research facility’s front door. Mighty lucky that this was the exact moment for Krennic to ask Galen to come outside just to let him know that the Death Star is complete. Do they all come outside any time Krennic has something to announce?
  • Krennic makes a side trip to Mustafar, where Vader apparently has been hanging out since Episode III, just to ask Vader’s permission for an audience with the Emperor. Is Vader the Emperor’s administrative assistant, now? Is any low-level director free to drop by any time, and then they wait in the big empty room while Vader gets dressed? (And Vader sounded really old, in this scene, James Earl Jones still sounds awesome, but four decades is a long time.)
  • What is there about Galen Erso that inspires not just devotion, but love, from those who protect him? Saw lets Jyn see his message even though Saw mistrusts her motives (“Did you come here to kill me?”). His name is the last word spoken before Bodhi dies (“This is for you, Galen”). There seems to be a lot more depth to Galen that we never have a chance to see.
  • The last thing we see before the battle on Scarif is of C-3PO and R2-D2 watching all the ships depart the Rebel base. But we know they must be on one of those ships, given the beginning of Episode IV. So it must have been immediately after C-3PO’s “They’re going to Scarif? Nobody tells us anything” lines that someone must scoop them up and rush them up to the corvette hidden inside the command ship, just in case.

And then the big battle on Scarif:

  • A chomping airlock, really? What is this, Galaxy Quest?
  • Why is the control panel always at the end of a long bridge that’s really high up? And why does a TIE Fighter choose that moment to open fire on Jyn while she’s out there? What reason does he have to think she’s an enemy?
  • So the Rebels received the transmission of the Death Star plans. How come only one ship was listening to the transmission? And how does the Empire know to go after that one specific ship? And why does this ship have another ship hiding inside it? Much coincidence.

And, finally, the one thing that really bothered me:

  • Jyn and Cassim have just defeated Krennic and uploaded the Death Star plans. They have left the top of the communications tower before the shot from the Death Star destroys it. They have plenty of time to escape through the rest of the Scarif base, leave presumably by one of those conveyor pods to the landing pads, then wander out to the beach to watch their doom approach from the horizon. Haven’t they already escaped this exact situation once already? Didn’t they just pass countless shuttles on those landing pads on the way out here? Why are they sharing a moment instead of trying to escape with their lives?

I once read an example (from the 1960s, I think) of “how not to write Star Trek.” It was a scene on the bridge of the Enterprise, with all the details wrong to show hopeful scriptwriters the kinds of things that Star Trek is not. (Spelling out “USS Enterprise” as “United Space Ship,” for example.) The scene ends with some terror appearing on the bridge viewscreen, and the Captain and his First Mate (a woman) clutching each other in an embrace and waiting for their inevitable doom – and the writeup makes a point of saying that our heroes would never give up like this, that they always believe in a fighting chance. That’s why this scene in Rogue One bothered me so much in particular.



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