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The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 42 – Coming Back For More, Part 9, Which Is Actually Part, um, 3.5?

The Caffeinated Collector: Episode 42 – Coming Back For More, Part 9, Which Is Actually Part, um, 3.5?

We’re swiftly closing in on the latest entry in the Star Wars film series, so you will soon get a break from my monthly ramblings on this subject. However, until that time comes, strap in, I’m about to jump to Hyperspace! In 2016, Disney and Lucasfilm took what some called a HUGE gamble and released a film that takes place outside the main saga of the Skywalker family. This was to be the first in a set of “anthology films” that would present self-contained stories that ran on the outskirts of the established canon. This news excited me immensely, because more Star Wars is never a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned, and there is only so much ground that can be covered within the confines of the Skywalker saga. When it was announced that the first film released would be the story of the team that stole the Death Star plans that Princess Leia was transporting at the beginning of A New Hope, I got even MORE excited. Not only would we get a new story, it would be a story set in the original trilogy timeline, which is my favorite era! As soon as images and scenes from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story started to emerge, I allowed myself to get almost as excited as everyone else got when The Force Awakens was released. What did I think when the film was finally released? You’ll have to keep reading to find out!

I could never understand why this move was seen as such a gamble, especially since the first film was an OT-era film. I think this was a VERY wise move on the part of the studio, as it would (hopefully) appease fans of my generation, along with new fans who came of age during the prequel era, the Clone Wars era and later. As long as we got a fun, competent film, it would count as a win from my perspective. I expected a heist film. I love heist films. I love Star Wars. So a Star Wars heist film is like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of cinema! Once I settled into my seat on opening night, I realized we were actually getting something different. We were getting a WAR MOVIE. A STAR WARS WAR MOVIE. Which, when you think about the fact that “Wars” is the second word of Star Wars, makes perfect sense. This was a serious film, with serious stakes, and characters that we came to love and then lost. I left the film feeling impressed and satisfied, but I said at that time that I wasn’t sure how often I would return to the film, since it was such a harrowing and emotionally wrenching journey. The answer to that question is, thankfully, “more often than Jeff expected.” I come back to this film every 4 months or so, and I find new things to enjoy each time. The things that attracted me originally are the things that bring me back: the characters, the action, and the OT callbacks. The themes of sacrifice and hope have begun to resonate more and more as well, so we’ll talk about all of this in the coming paragraphs.

As I’ve stated before, the main thing that has always drawn me to Star Wars is the characters. The Star Wars universe is populated by people who I enjoy spending time with, and Rogue One is no exception. Our heroine, Jyn Erso, is a very dour and serious character, which could get tiresome in the hands of a lesser actor, but Felicity Jones imbues the character with a real personality that transcends any screenplay tropes that might make her hard to handle. She is a character that you want to see happy, and her ultimate fate is one that seems both inevitable and accepted. Likewise, Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor is a character that should be difficult to root for, as his first act onscreen is to kill an informant who is assisting him. However, the conflict that he presents about his actions, and the commitment he shows to both his convictions and his fellow rebels makes him a complicated character with layer upon layer of motivation. The characters of Baze and Chirrut seem to be a single character presented by two actors. Their devotion to the cause, to one another, and to their seemingly at-odds faiths is another relationship that reads as genuine, and puts to rest the notion that Star Wars is “just” entertainment. Their deaths on Scarif carried the most weight of any of the human characters for me. Rogue One gave me a first: My favorite character, and the one who’s demise affected me the most, was a non-human droid. I love the droids, but I always respond most to the human characters in Star Wars, for obvious reasons. K-2SO is a different story. Alan Tudyk’s vocal performance coupled with his on-set motion capture work for the droid gives us quite possibly the most well-rounded and human droid in the entire saga. Tudyk is one of my favorite performers because he always manages to find the humanity in any character he portrays, and this “robot” is no different. I came to love K-2SO in all of his awkward glory, and his extended “death” scene while he buys time for Jyn and Cassian is the most affecting sacrifice in a film full of earned emotional scenes. How did they make me cry over a bunch of metal parts?  Each of the main characters has at least one moment that makes me appreciate what they are dealing with, but these few are the ones that I keep coming back to watch time and again.

Rogue One, as I stated before, is a war movie. As a result, you would expect the action sequences to be first-rate. And you would be correct to expect that. This film has, in my opinion, the most technically impressive action set-pieces in the saga so far. The attack on the streets of Jedha, the destruction of Jedha by the Death Star, the space battle above Scarif, and especially the ramming of the Star Destroyer by the Hammerhead Corvette are energizing and cheer-inducing. When the Imperials begin fighting after the explosion on the streets of Jedha, the action is fast and intense, but the direction never allows me to get lost or lose my bearings. The fight between Baze and the troopers is straight out of a classic Kung Fu movie, and I loved every second of it. The destruction of Jedha, which is the first pre-test of the Death Star’s destructive power, is both awe-inspiring and heart-breaking, as we know just how many people are suffering at the hands of the Empire. The narrow escape of Jyn’s ship from this attack is also invigorating and never fails to leave me breathless. When the Alliance arrives above Scarif to help our Rogues fulfill their mission, it is the finest space battle we’ve seen since the end of Return of the Jedi. Again, I never find myself confused about where I’m at, or what the stakes are. The inclusion of several unused shots from the original trilogy help to solidify the timeline, and the filmmakers have managed to incorporate them seamlessly. At the end of it all, the ramming of the Star Destroyer by the Hammerhead Corvette is not only unbelievably cool, it’s handled in a believable way that still causes debate among my friends about how feasible it would be for this to work. And anytime you give me a reason to talk Star Wars with my friends, you’ve given me a gift. I don’t always come back to a film to watch action sequences, it’s usually to revisit character, dialogue, and humor. Rogue One, however, handles the action in such a remarkable way that I come back to it over and over to lose myself in the whirlwind of events. The callbacks to the original trilogy also give me something to look for each time, which is always fun.

At the end of the day, Rogue One is about two things to me: Sacrifice and Hope. These are both well-traveled in the film. Jyn understands that her father has sacrificed his life with his family to keep them, and the galaxy as safe as he can while working on the Empire’s ultimate weapon. Cassian is willing to sacrifice others for the cause he believes in, and eventually even himself to make sure the Rebel Alliance can succeed. Baze accepts his fate with the serenity of a monk as he repeats his mantra “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me,” and Chirrut comes to understand just what this means in his final moments holding his friend, and he goes out on his own terms, taking as many Imperials with him as he can. Even K-2SO, who has spent the film talking to Jyn as though she is unworthy of his trust, acknowledges at the end that their mission is the important thing. This theme of sacrifice for the things we believe in is woven throughout the Star Wars saga, but it is front-and-center in this story, which is appropriate. This is the reason I feared I wouldn’t be able to revisit the film as often. I believe in sacrifice for the greater good, and this film reinforces that belief, but it’s not really a theme that helps me escape my daily routine, which is the best thing that Star Wars provides me. However, after several viewings, the theme of sacrifice is not the overriding idea of the film that sticks with me. The theme that brings me back is the final word spoken in the film: Hope. Star Wars is about hope. Regardless of the stories, the relative quality of the films, or the amazing technical advances that each film brings, the central theme of the universe is hope. George Lucas was an optimist when he started the story. I’m an optimist in my daily life. Hope is the thing that keeps me going. Hope is the reason I am able to make any attempt to make a difference in this world. Hope is also something that I need to be reminded of and refilled with. Star Wars always gives me hope. The original trilogy is about A New Hope for the galaxy. Rogue One is about the hope that drives you to do things that seem impossible, because that hope makes the impossible seem surmountable. The characters in Rogue One go into their mission fully expecting to die. They don’t hesitate to dive headfirst into their work because they believe it is necessary, and the hope that their actions will help topple the Empire is enough to drive them forward. I think about that when I have trouble finding motivation to live my life. As silly as Star Wars can be, Rogue One reminds me of the people in my own life, and in the real world who give of themselves because they have hope that their actions will improve the lives of those around them, and in turn the world they live in. It’s rare for a film to inspire me, but this one does. That reason alone is enough to bring me back to it as often as possible. Hope is a powerful thing. Hope is necessary. Hope helps.

Wow, this one got DEEP, didn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m still a goofball who loves lame jokes, but it’s difficult to talk about a film as impressive as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story without discussing the monumental themes that permeate it. I will always come back to this film, and it will end up being one of my favorite films in the series, because the characters are real, the action is amazing, and the themes of the film speak to me on a personal and intense level. What about you? How did you feel once the film premiered? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! And don’t forget to come back next month for my thoughts on The Last Jedi. (Hint, I like it. Like, a lot.)

Until next time,

May the Force of Others Be With Us All.

Margot and Archie say hi.

Jeff can be heard weekly on The Geek Supreme (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot EpisodeTalking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also co-host of Comics With Kenobi with fellow CWK blogger Matt Moore, on CoffeeWithKenobi.com, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog. You can contact Jeff at jeffm@coffeewithkenobi.com.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Coffee With Kenobi, its hosts, respective writers, or its affiliates.

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1 Comment

  1. Melinda W
    March 26, 2018 at 08:53 Reply

    Incredibly put, Jeff! Thank you so much for sharing your poignant words about “Rogue One” with us.

    I was watching “The Thin Red Line” last night, and I can’t help but compare that film … so dark and such a dour approach to war [for those adjectives aptly describe exactly what war is] … to “Rogue One” — which clearly outlines the cost of war, the cost to fight for something bigger than oneself — in the light of day, but is so clearly about something more. Both are about missions that must be completed, but that is where the similarities stop. It goes to great lengths to express the concern for loss, the sacrifice participants are willing to accept to fight for something bigger than themselves [I will be interested to read what you (might) have to say about Rose robbing Finn of his sacrifice — a price he was willing to pay to save his friends and the Rebellion — near the end of “The Last Jedi”], and, as you so deftly pointed out, it leaves each member of the audience with the HOPE for tomorrow. Once Cassian and Jyn transmitted the Death Star plans to the awaiting ship far overhead, there was no guarantee that those plans would get to their intended ultimate destination. The freedom fighters knew there was a battle raging all around them, raging up in space. The ship that received the transmission could have been destroyed like so many of the Rebel ships were. But Cassian and Jyn passed the baton after completing their mission. HOPE gave them the ability to face their fate. HOPE might be a four-letter to word to most — but it carries an incredible amount of weight. HOPE for a better tomorrow. HOPE for a more enlightened future. I feel that with the rising of the sun each day.

    My oldest daughter cringes every time I say this, but one of the best facets of “Rogue One” [technically speaking] was the editing. “Momma, you are not supposed to notice the editing!” she admonishes. [ 😉 ] [She is an assistant/editor who works in television and film.] I am well aware of the fact that I do pay attention to it, even subconsciously, whenever I watch a movie because I have a daughter who works in that facet of the entertainment industry. I can’t help it. [It’s like when my drum instructor told me that once I began learning to play the instrument, I never would listen to music the same way again. Even ruin listening to music for me. He was right … although I still enjoy listening to music — it’s just different now — just like I enjoy watching movies.] The editing throughout “Rogue One” was absolutely incredible, and was instrumental in helping tell the story as it unfolded on the Big Screen. The intensity of the battle scenes were kept intense via the editing. The threat of discovery was amplified by the length and angle of shots. The keen emotion seeded deep within viewers becomes more acute as a shot is lengthened to express the power of loss. [One of the most powerful shots from all of “Rogue One” is that of Saw Guerra as he stands in the cave opening … watching the Rebels flee … knowing that something catastrophic is about to happen. It gives me chills every time I watch that scene.] I just can’t help thinking about — or talking about, for that matter — the editing whenever I think/talk about this stand-alone Star Wars film.

    I am surprised you did not talk about the colors of “Rogue One”, Jeff, and how the use of so many dark/muted colors plays so well into the ambiance of the film. Please, I am not being critical about the omission. It’s only that I have been an avid follower of your writings, and am well aware of what color means to you. 😉

    I look forward to what you have to say about “The Last Jedi”. Until next month, MTFBWY, and thanks again! 🙂

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