As the release of this movie grew closer, my level of skepticism kept rising. I liked the premise of the movie. The thought of following a group of spies around the Star Wars universe interested me. It is something that had not really been shown before. Yes, I am certain there is probably some expanded universe stuff with this view point, but nothing that the wider audience had been shown.
With the last trailer shown, my skepticism grew more. This was the trailer that revealed that Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) was the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the man that designed the Death Star. Instantly, this plot point worried me. I wanted to see a movie about spies being spies, and trying to steal secret information. Not a movie about a daughter trying to find and/or redeem her father. I was worried that Disney, presented with an opportunity to give us a different type of Star Wars movie, would play it safe in the end.
In the end, we did end up with some type of spy/war movie set in the Star Wars universe that I’m fairly certain I liked, but not entirely sure it did as much as it could have. Spoilers follow.
Right away, the movie veers off from what I would have wanted. The opening shows The Empire, maybe Republic still, coming for Galen Erso. Galen tries to send his wife, Lyra (Valene Kane) and a fairly young Jyn away, but his wife returns and ends up getting show. Jyn sees all of this happen, and then hides away. Eventually, she is found by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), and is rescued.
It is not exactly clear when this takes place within the larger universe. Maybe sometime during Revenge of the Sith, but that doesn’t really matter. My problem with the opening is the actions of the mother. Why would she leave her young daughter behind to try to help Galen? What made her think that she could be effective against a squad of Imperial soldiers?
After that, we do get some of the shadier spy things that I was hoping for. We see a Rebel spy named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) actually kill a man to protect information when it was apparent there was no way he was going to escape the Imperial troops. We also see an extreme faction of the Rebellion led by Saw Gerrera, who tortures an Imperial pilot that was voluntarily defecting to the Rebellion.
I really liked this. This is what a good spy movie should have. In every other movie, the Rebellion is always portrayed as being entirely good and pure. But here we have instances of a sanctioned Rebel spy killing a man to protect the Rebellion, because thought there was no other way. There was no silly notion of finding a way out because good will always triumph over evil. There was only, if I don’t kill you, you’re going to tell the Empire what you told me to save your own skin, and the Rebellion needs to keep that info secret.
Then there is Saw Gerrera’s group. It is only logical that the Rebellion would attract extremists. When a force destroys your home and family, calculated, measured responses are not going to come from everyone. While the Rebel Alliance consists of politicians and their particular systems fighting against the Galactic Empire, Saw’s group consists of commoners fighting back against their oppressors.
I was pleased that everyone you meet in the movie dies. Yes, everyone in the Rogue One group dies at some point in the movie. Yes, that probably sounds morbid, and some of the deaths were a bit on the melodramatic side, but it showed that Disney isn’t playing it safe with the movies. The safe route would have been to at least of Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor make it out alive. Leave them alive so that you can tell some other story with them that happens between two of the original movies. Or maybe something shortly after Return of the Jedi. But they didn’t. They sacrificed the characters for the sake of the Rebellion, and it was the right choice.
Not everything was great, though. I still do not like Jyn Erso being the daughter of the man who worked on the Death Star. Seeing Cassian struggle with the moral dilemma of following his orders to kill Galen did not really have the impact on myself that the filmmakers intended. With how the scene played out, it was obvious that Galen was not seeing eye to eye with the Empire. At that point, Cassian choosing not to kill him does not really show Cassian learning compassion. Rather that he is not stupid, and can see what is going on in front of him.
If you have not seen this movie already, I suggest you see it. It connects nicely with A New Hope, even explaining why the Death Star is so easy to destroy. There is also an amazing Darth Vader scene. It is a nice addition to the Star Wars Universe, and a movie that will be added to the marathon the next time I decide to watch them all.