One of the advantages of the Christmas holidays was to get caught up on a few things. There wasn’t enough time in the lead-up to the big day to take in the new Star Wars film, but there was once the turkey had had some time to settle.
I went to watch this film with high expectations. The reviews I had read, all from pre-screenings, raved over how good the movie was. Supposedly being a stand-alone story freed up the writers and actors, inspiring them to new heights.
Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for the film. The plan had been to see another spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is set in the Harry Potter universe. But when we arrived at the theatre, Fantastic Beasts was sold out. That left Rogue One as the fallback.
If you are looking for an adventure film, it fits the bill. Lots of action and a simple to follow plot. The acting was about on par with what you would expect from a Star Wars movie, the special effects were great and the cameo appearances by characters such as C3PO and R2D2 suitable for the fans.
I found though that I left the theatre thinking, which is probably never a good thing.
From the outset of the first movie in the series in 1977 we have been predisposed to identify with and support the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. The scripts are written that way, and there are no characters from the Empire that we can empathize with. Luke Skywalker is everyman. Darth Vader is everyman’s nightmare.
Being 40 years older than I was when I saw the first film, my attitudes have changed. I have a better understanding of and sympathy for authority. So somebody tell me, what is so bad about the Empire. What have they done that justifies a rebellion? We are never told.
Someone is now sure to point out that the Empire created the Death Star that destroys entire planets. Not exactly a sign of a benign government. I suppose the same argument could be made about the initial development of nuclear weapons by the USA in the Second World War. But they were on our side, they were the good guys. In the Star Wars series all the Empire’s officials seem bent on crushing the rebellion. They are the bad guys.
Really though, can you judge a government or its officials by their response to rebellion? The treatment of the rebels might be much harsher than the treatment of the ordinary citizen. Government exists in some part to protect the state from attack. Why wouldn’t the Empire strike back when threatened?
I can only conclude that if the movie stirred up such thoughts then the filmmakers failed in their mission. I’m supposed to be sympathetic to the rebels, I know that. But with all the action, noise and confusion, they didn’t manage to have me bond in any way with the characters. Their rebellion didn’t become my rebellion.
That probably puts me in the minority.