Ah, December. Always a fun time, and this one is no different. The bright lights, the good times, the likelihood of massive numbers of people dying. What? You thought I was talking about Christmas? No, I’m talking about Star Wars. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which is set to come out December 16th and I can’t wait to see it. There’s so much hype surrounding the upcoming film and it’s understandable. The trailers were action packed, the backstory is great, and Felicity Jones is… well I’m actually not gonna go into detail here. Too explicit. But with all the hype, it begs a big question: can Rogue One be any good? Before I go on, let me say now that I’ll be discussing details from most of the movies so I’m issuing a spoiler alert now. You’ve been warned.
Let me start off by saying that I do enjoy Star Wars. The movies are always fun to watch and the way they were handled was great. There was never a wasted moment, as every scene either had great action or a dramatic and suspenseful build up to said action. Look at Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The build-up to Luke and Darth Vader’s climactic battle was preceded by Palpatine’s constant goading in his attempt to turn Luke to the dark side and Luke’s internal struggle. The original trilogy is regarded as some of the greatest films of all time for this reason. Every scene always felt like a twist, something you didn’t quite see coming until it happened. Well, all except the big reveal that Vader is Luke’s father, which is probably the biggest plot twist of all time but also the most predictable. His last name is literally German for “father.” Come on! So yes, the original trilogy was great, but there’s a hell of a lot more content to cover, namely the prequel trilogy. For those of you who don’t know, the prequels follow the story of Anakin Skywalker, the father of Luke and Leia, and his descent into darkness and transformation into Darth Vader. The prequels don’t get nearly as high acclaim as the original trilogy. But why? Well one of the major issues about these films is that they were too predictable. Watching the original trilogy, you already know that the Empire killed all the Jedi, Vader is Luke’s dad, and that Palpatine is an evil sith lord. The prequels are meant to be an origins story, but all they do is tell us what we already know. It doesn’t do that good of a job filling out previous characters. We learn why Anakin went to the dark side, but it doesn’t change the fact that we already knew he was going that way anyways. And honestly, that never made much sense to me. Anakin went to the dark side to save the woman he loves, but by going to the dark side he ends up being the reason she dies. But when he realizes this, why doesn’t he try to go back to the light side? He literally lost his only reason for becoming a sith! What did Palpatine have to offer at that point?!
Ok, rant over. I think the major issue with the prequels though was that they were trying too hard to be like the original trilogy, but it can’t be. An origin story is meant to flesh out a character, provide us more understanding of how they became the person we come to know them to be. The prequel trilogy did an okay job with some characters, like Obi-Wan and Palpatine, as well as provide us with more understanding about how the setting of the original trilogy came to be, but that’s about it. It gave us useless characters that aren’t even mentioned in the original trilogy What was the point in introducing Qui-Gon Jinn if you were gonna kill him off in the same movie? It’s not even like when Obi-Wan died but his Force ghost kept coming back to give Luke advice. And if Padme was so important in Anakin’s descent to darkness, how come we hear pretty much nothing about her? The prequels were essentially trying to show how Luke would’ve ended up if he had gone to the dark side, but they used the pretext of trying to expand the Star Wars story as we knew it to do so. It just felt too forced.
The prequels left a bad taste in a lot of fans’ mouths and although the franchise made several attempts to recover, it wouldn’t be until 2015 with The Force Awakens would it be able to do so. For those of you that have yet to see the film, The Force Awakens is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi and is the first true sequel to the original trilogy. It follows the story of the Resistance, a group made of rebels who are fighting the First Order, a dictatorship attempting to overthrow the New Republic. The First Order is led by Snoke, an evil ruler who has corrupted Ben, the son of Han Solo and Leia from the original trilogy and Luke’s former student, who now goes under the name Kylo Ren and is Snoke’s main enforcer. The success of the Resistance rests upon Rey, an orphan from the planet Jakku who seeks out Luke, who is now a Jedi Master to get his help in stopping the First Order. “Wait a minute. As army of rebels is attempting to defeat an evil entity led by an evil tyrant whose main fighter is a corrupted former Jedi? And their hope is being placed in the hands of an orphan and a Jedi Master? This sounds just like the original trilogy!” you’re probably saying, and you’re right, it kinda is. But that doesn’t change the fact that the film received a 92% critical score and an 89% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, much higher than any of the prequel films. But why? Well, remember what I said about the prequel trilogy. It was trying too hard to be like the original trilogy, introducing new characters when it didn’t need to and doing a poor job of doing what it was supposed to. The Force Awakens, on the other hand, introduced new characters that serve a purpose beyond moving the plot forward as well as effectively using old characters in a way that made them feel like more than just an easter egg. Rey is a prime example of effective use of a good character. She is essentially the Luke of the sequel trilogy, having a similar origin story and role in the film and her presence in the film gives you that feeling. Anakin never really felt like the hero of the prequel trilogy, mostly because it was supposed to be the story of how he becomes evil. It’s kinda hard to root for the “hero” after watching him slaughter a room full of kids. And I’m not even exaggerating. He literally kills a room full of children! Furthermore, since we didn’t know the direction The Force Awakens, the plot twists actually felt like genuine twists. Mace Windu’s death during Revenge of the Sith wasn’t that shocking since we already know that pretty much all of the Jedi are dead by A New Hope, but Kylo killing Han? Most shocking event of the year. So basically, The Force Awakens does what the prequels tried to do, but it did it better.
So where does that leave Rogue One? Well, Rogue One kinda falls into a grey area. From what we’ve seen of the trailers it appears to actually do a great job in effectively using new and old characters much like The Force Awakens. However, like the prequel trilogy, we pretty much know what’s going to happen. Rogue One is the story of how the Rebel Alliance gets their hands on the blueprints for the Death Star, the Empire’s main space station. We already know that they’re going to succeed, since A New Hope starts off with Leia sending Obi-Wan the blueprints via R2-D2 in order to bring them to her home planet of Alderaan for analysis. But while we already know this, Rogue One has one more thing going for it, and that it doesn’t have to carry the same burden the prequels did. Remember, the main issue with the prequels was that it was supposed to provide an effective origin story and only really did a decent job. Rogue One doesn’t have this issue. It’s not really an origin story since it’s not expanding on the backstory of previous characters. I think the best way to look at Rogue One isn’t as a prequel to the original trilogy, but rather as a sequel to the prequel trilogy. Doing so allows us to see it through the same lens as we saw The Force Awakens, in which it has a story that, while building on the original trilogy, is mostly independent from the other films. So yes, I do think Rogue One will be good, mostly because it has all the same benefits as The Force Awakens and none of the burdens of the prequels.