Ruminations: Rogue One Changes Everything

Ruminations: Rogue One Changes Everything

It started with the Death Star, with the jolt that went through me the first time I saw it over the horizon of the then still unfamiliar Scarif. I couldn’t quite push the image from my mind. Immediately, I knew that things would shift in the Star Wars galaxy with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; I didn’t yet know that for me, the shift would be drastic.

When I first learned that a “stand alone” Star Wars film was being made, I scoffed. I couldn’t imagine why. Weren’t we all caught up in the thrill of having another trilogy made? Fresh on the heels of the fabulous Star Wars: Episode Vll The Force Awakens, it seemed like a giant step backward to venture into this….other….entity, one that would feature characters we’d never heard of before let alone had a chance to get to know. Why? I just couldn’t imagine.

But then that Death Star. I wasn’t simply seeing a ball in the sky, the “that’s no moon” space station destination that could shoot deathly rays from afar. I saw the Dark Side come to life. I saw context, the way something like the Death Star would realistically appear in the sky from a doomed planet. All of the suffering in the galaxy at the hands of the empire became more real than it had ever been. In a dark, frightening time in the world with far too much conflict everywhere, I saw the reality of a Dark, frightening time.

If Star Wars deserves to take any real flack, it might be for the “fluffiness” of it. Here’s this story at the heart of a sweeping, deeply moving saga buried beneath cutesy Ewoks and witty droids that know more than the humans do. We’ve got loose wire cracks and sappy romantic banter and the swaggering space pirate and his princess, an enormous slug villain, slobbering Gungans. It’s cheesy. There. I said it. I love every sappy silly moment, but sometimes Star Wars is incredibly cheesy. It’s my only criticism, and it’s because I love the story so darned much. I love the struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, and with the introduction of the characters in Episode Vll, Rey in particular, the gray area that lies between the two extremes. In Rogue One, I finally have the film that stamps reality on everything else that happened before and certainly, after.

Rogue One completely changed my decades-long Star Wars fandom.

Hope is no longer simply part of the revised title of the first Star Wars film. It is now THE foundation on which Star Wars is built, just as that early Rogue One movie poster says: “A Rebellion Built on Hope.” Let’s be honest. By the end of Rogue One, hope is pretty much all we have left in the form of the transmitted information that is handed to young, beautiful Princess Leia. Hope, and a whole lot of dead characters. Even the cool droids die in this film along with the handsome reluctant hero and the rest of the quirky entourage who come together to surround and support the best hero in the saga, Jyn Erso. Jyn. Wow. She’s the epitome of what Star Wars is about for me now.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones)

Jyn comes so far in such a short period of time. When we meet her, she wants nothing more than to keep her head down and survive. It’s all she’s known since she was a small child. Survival. But Jyn quickly learns about meaning in life, the fight for what matters, and the terrible price some are forced to pay.

There are people who are very upset that “everyone” dies in Rogue One. I’m a happy endings kind of girl and would normally agree. But it has to happen that way, not just for the cinematic fact that these characters are seen nowhere from that point, on, chronologically. It has to happen because that’s the way it is in battle, in war. People die. Sometimes the people we love most, die. Sometimes change requires sacrifice. Without the sacrifices of the characters in Rogue One, nothing else that happens afterward could exist. We had to see that. Had to know. Had to feel the tragedy of Jyn and Cassian’s deaths as they are consumed by the effects of the Death Star’s blast. It hurts, but so does conflict. So does war. And that’s what’s sorely missing in Episodes I – VI.

Han Solo (Harrison Ford) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I even “like” that Han Solo is killed at the hand of his son in Episode Vll, and I wonder how that will affect the films yet to come? It’s tragic and awful and hard to watch, but it’s real and lends to the entire saga an authenticity that it didn’t have before. The Sith are bad news. Period. Before this, I had a somewhat unrealistic “roses and sunshine” outlook on Darth Vader, more interested in his heart than his heat. I always will be to some degree. Now with Rogue One and the death of Han Solo, the slaying of younglings is that much more real. People die. They die at the hands of the Empire, of its spawn, Kylo Ren, and of Darth Vader. Jyn Erso is dead because Darth Vader lives.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Darth Vader
Photo credit: Lucasfilm/ILM
©2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

When you were younger, making “pew, pew, pew” noises from your plastic blasters (I did), talking Yoda-speak to your friends (who hasn’t?), roaring like Chewie (sadly, I still can’t do it), and waving your hands in front of automatic doors to “open” them with the Force (has anyone not done this?), did you ever think about what it must have been like to suffer under the oppression of the Empire? I know I didn’t, not really, and certainly not as much as I should have. I’m not saying that Star Wars shouldn’t be fun. It is FABULOUS fun! But now it’s also more real for me than it has ever been, and I love it that way.

Rogue One grounds Star Wars in reality. It had to happen, and the saga is better for it.

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  1. Natasha OShaughnessy
    September 18, 2017 at 09:14 Reply

    Ah, my sentiments exactly. My old ” depression dark music ” was always Depeche Mode now it is that scene from Rogue One and that music. Rogue One and its ending was Right. So sad but right and real. I guess Rogue One resonates with a lot of us old farts who were children in 1977. But still love all the Cheesy too. Hey it’s Star Wars!

    Our new official viewing order for May 4th is now
    Rogue One straight into ……
    New Hope ( mini break when they arrive on the Death Star with comparisons and discussion about how th we movies flow etc)
    Phantom Menace ( lots of FFWd)
    Force Awakens

    1. Pam Bruchwalski
      September 20, 2017 at 14:24 Reply

      Thank you so much for your comment, Natasha. I’ve very interested in your viewing order. I haven’t had a marathon in a very long time, not since the release of either Rogue One or Ep Vll for that matter. I need to do that!

  2. MelindaW
    September 18, 2017 at 17:13 Reply

    Pam, I’m so glad the drought is over!

    What a great blog! 🙂 I enjoyed reading it very much.

    Like you, I didn’t really know what to expect regarding this first stand-alone film in the Star Wars franchise. I am so glad it surpassed whatever expectations I might have had rumbling around in the back of my mind (I tried to go into the theater with a blank brain, to totally immerse myself in RO with the hope of being swept away just like I have been with each of its seven predecessors).

    If you don’t mind my saying, I never really have thought of SW as being too “fluffy”. It always has been “real” to me. Since seeing (what eventually became) “A New Hope”, I have seen so many correlations between the story onscreen and real life that it couldn’t be anything but real. Yes, Star Wars is set is this fantasy galaxy we all love so much, but its story is steeped in reality (at least to me) that it never lost its edge. No, our main heroes don’t die (until Han in Episode VII, of course), but plenty of characters — on both sides of the equation — do. My heart still feels a twist when I watch Porkins, Biggs, the Ewok (I can’t remember his/her name) who perishes after getting blasted by an AT-ST die. These and many more deaths remind us of the cost of war.

    What happened in “Rogue One” drove that message home in a huge way, of course, because none of our heroes made it out alive.

    (I am one of those fans who would have liked to have seen one of the crew members of Rogue One make it to safety. It wouldn’t matter that we never see him/her again. We can’t always expect to see everyone all the time.)


    1. Pam Bruchwalski
      September 20, 2017 at 14:29 Reply

      Thank you, Melinda, for your comments. I’ll reply to one at a time!

      I hope I didn’t misrepresent my feelings. I do think that there are parts of SW that are cheesy, but only because of how much I love the story, which has always been very real to me. I can relate to a hulking black-clad bully who breathes through a mask. I mean….that’s real to me. The romantic banter melted me then and still makes me smile now.

      Rogue One was a slap in the face. In a good way, if that makes sense. I needed it.

  3. MelindaW
    September 18, 2017 at 17:20 Reply

    the end…

    One of the reasons I think Jyn Erso resonates with fans (including me) is that she is a “regular person”. Yes, my favorite character always will be that Jedi, Luke Skywalker ( 🙂 ), but I must say that Jyn ranks pretty high up on my list now. 🙂 She, like most of the rest of Rogue One’s main crew, personify what individuals with no special powers can do. (While Guardians Baze and Chirrut were not Jedi, they had an edge over the rest of RO’s crew. At least in my opinion.) That makes them extra special examples for those of us who like to watch these films.

    Again, Pam, great article. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this very special film in the Star Wars franchise. 🙂

    MTFBWY 🙂

    1. Pam Bruchwalski
      September 20, 2017 at 14:35 Reply

      Great point about Jyn being a regular person, but is she? I do find myself wondering about whether or not she would have discovered any Force sensitivity had she lived. The more time passes, I believe that just as in real life, all SW characters have some Force in them. Obi-wan kind of contradicts himself in this well loved scene:

      If the Force surrounds and penetrates all living things, then why can only the Jedi (and Sith) use it?


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Pam is a writer, editor, mother, fangirl, and self-proclaimed geek from Pittsburgh, PA.

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