Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Great Disturbance in the Force

Ten days ago we went to see "Rogue One." Ten days ago.

Like way too few films in the Star Wars canon, this one had real emotion. It was imperfect, to be sure, but it seemed worth a "review" of sorts.

I had stayed away from all of the formal reviews. Didn't even want to know what this movie was, let alone anyone's particular take on it. Star Wars, after all, was the adventure film of my adolescence, the ultimate coming of age movie as I was coming of age. I didn't know a thing about Seven Samurai, nor anything about THX 1138, nor Lawrence Of Arabia. I had no context, and I didn't care. When that death star exploded, so did the theater. At least, the first 3 times I saw the movie.

The depth of the plot wasn't such a big deal to me at age, nor the quality of the acting. Even at 15, I understood that there was a gap between Mark Hamill whining about power converters, and Oscars. But I didn't care.


So when my 15-year old demanded to see this latest escapist adventure for the 2nd time in 3 days, I was on board. A bit of a mystery, this one, not really part of the 9-movie canon. Just sort of a side story wedged in, just before the move that is now referenced as "Episode IV." Even that much I didn't know walking in, though it was obvious soon enough.

Peter Cushing... still dead, and still badass 
The first shocker to me was the sight of Peter Cushing, looking exactly as menacing as he did as Grand Moff Tarkin in that first movie. Not having paid any attention whatsoever to any of the advance press, this was a bit of a jolt, even with CGI. Hasn't he been dead, for like, a long time? Oh, never mind, just roll with it. Had to be one of the best zombie performances... ever.

For a change in this series, there was also a story worth following, even thought the "big" part of the ending was clear from the start. Yhe inclusion of moral ambiguities. Sure the Empire was one-dimensionally evil, but the Rebel Alliance wasn't necessarily all light and good and guided by the Force. The near total absence of the Force worked in the film's favor, for the most part.

There is a scene, relatively early in the movie, in which the new heroine Jyn rescues a child during a fire fight in Jedha City. It's a small scene, not even a plot point really, until the Death Star gets its test run.

Not that the plot is all that. I mean, I understand that this was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but... data towers to the sky? Really? With data slots that look like rejects from HAL's memory banks? All we needed there was a verse of Daisy. 



And, excuse me, but if Galen Erso could smuggle out a hologram of himself, and an Imperial pilot and a ship, couldn't he just, you know, find a way to smuggle out the plans? Rebels blast out the Death Star plans to the entire known universe, and it's all wrapped up in a single disc with no other copies?? Where are the Russian hackers when we really need them?

Characters from the main stories made small appearances, just in case we forgot this really was a Star Wars film. Darth Vader had a few lines, mostly as a caricature with a cool light saber... but James Earl Jones was still doing the speaking, so it was all good.

As the movie wound towards the climactic battle scene, it became the destiny of Jyn and crew was along a different path than that of Luke. The disc survived, at least, so that Leia could stuff its contents in to R2-D2.

That was 10 days ago. Ten days ago, when that final scene played out, there was an audible gasp in the room. CGI or not, how did they do this? Even more than the appearances of Cushing and the red and gold leaders, that was like seeing a ghost. And I didn't care.

Ten days later, it just doesn't feel the same.