Why would it be a victory for minorities? From the onset, we have characters with Mexican, Chinese and Pakistani heritage making up the ring of heroes, aided by an African-American and led by a woman. This squadron of rebels faces up against an Empire who are exclusively white, something which caused some white supremacist groups to boycott the film. But what was Director Gareth Edward’s intention here? Well, one can only speculate, but to me it’s the alternative narrative that is never told in Hollywood – the narrative of minorities who are not just rebelling against the Empire, but are rebelling against the ever dying racist, sexist and colonial mentalities that plague the Western world.
Rogue One is truly Star Wars for the modern world.
Star Wars has always been a celebrated franchise, but this is no longer 1977, and the simplicity of ‘good vs. evil’ no longer works. Good and evil are too subjective in our world, and it is almost subjective in Rogue One; the Rebels are fighting the evil Empire, but their methods, decisions and ways aren’t always honourable, and there are even extremists in the fight who are outcast for their methods. The Empire yearns domination, but not all those who are a part of it are blindly subservient to a villainous ideology. Some of them are seeking their own selfish goals, whilst others are simply working there, and then others are happy to live under the Empire without a care altogether.
“How will you live in a galaxy dominated by Imperial flags?” a rebel asks. The reply? “I won’t look up.”
Rogue One reflects our modern world and it’s far from a simple one, and this reflection in a movie is remarkably refreshing. But the echoes of the problems of our modern world aside, Rogue One is a story about rebellion. It’s the age-old struggle of revolting against the face of tyranny, about sacrificing what is dear to us for the sake of the greater good, and most of all, it is about hope; a glimmer of hope in a dark, dark world, hope that a small action will echo into eternity. These are deep themes, and Gareth Edwards handles them with expertise. It’s not a philosopher’s film of course, it’s an action film, and the action is perhaps the most exhilarating of 2016, with set pieces that will have you on the edge of your seat, unlike the overly loud and unnecessarily over-the-top Marvel and DC action sequences as of late. However, the heart and soul of the movie seeps out from its opening scene to its teary end.
Gareth Edwards is no stranger to creating beauty on film, after all, this is the man who created a movie (Monsters, 2010) that could pass as a Summer blockbuster on a budget of $15,000 (which is an abysmal budget for a movie), following it up with Godzilla (2014) which was full of visual wonder. It’s not just the cinematography of Rogue One which is stellar, but the beauty of the worlds he has created: the colour; the scope; the scenic wonders that inhabit the screen, as if taking you on a tour of the wonders of our planet a la Planet Earth II, as opposed to a tour of a galaxy far, far away.
Further to this, the characters themselves are relatable to us all. There are no Superman’s here or even Luke Skywalkers; they are flawed, but each seeking redemption in their own way, and using the heist that makes up the movie (trying to steal the plans for the Death Star) to redeem themselves. The acting is fantastic by all, with Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn standing out on top.
I have always respected the influence of Star Wars on movies today, and accepted that it was a game changer and a critically acclaimed movie. But it never really spoke to me. I found it too unbelievable – not in that it featured space battles and Jedi in a galaxy far, far away – but in that it seemed to represent the bubble that the American/British societies live in: a world where it is essentially them and aliens.
Rogue One speaks to me, and funnily enough, it gave me a bit of hope. Rogue One is a movie that doesn’t want a sequel for itself, doesn’t want to obey Hollywoods norms, and doesn’t want to give you the ending you expect. The perfect formula to leave you blown away.