Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rogue One and Thoughts on the New Direction of Star Wars

I saw Rogue One, and it is a good action movie.  It felt a bit more like a Star Wars film, but without any character development.  Droids still steal the movie.  It is not directed by J.J. Abrams so no need to worry about crazy light flares.  But it does fit with the new direction of the franchise set by Abrams.  So here are a few thoughts now that we have two movies from the new direction.

First, it is clear that the concept of the Force has changed.  The Force is now acting on its own, and has a will.  People seem to pray to it in Rogue One, and it can look as if Rey might be doing the same thing in Force Awakens to change the momentum of her light saber fight.  This makes the ground split between Rey and Kylo Ren have new meanings as well.  The Force did not want Rey to kill Kylo.  Everything now is part of the will of the Force.  It is taking the Force from a more Eastern mysticism to something closer to Christian conception of a personal god. 

This is different from Lucas’s view of the Force.  Even in the Phantom Menace where it is mentioned the Force has a will, but then it also obeys your commands.  Lucas used the Force as more of something that gave people abilities, and can be used rightly or wrongly.  Now with this new view of the Force having a will, it brings with it a host of complications.  What does it mean to return the Force to balance, as they discussed in the Prequel Trilogy?  Why did the Force allow the Emperor and the evil he wrought?  Vader killed younglings after all.  Why does the Force have a light side and a dark side? 

Second, these movies are no longer really fantasy kids movies.  Force Awakens was the first film to earn a PG-13 rating, and this movie, Rogue One, is a war movie where, well, when you see the end you will understand.  At least Rogue One is a self contained movie unlike Abrams’s Force Awakens where the mystery is never revealed. 

Third, the original trilogy was great in creating characters.  After all, we love those characters enough to have all these other movies.  It still stands as one of the best trilogies ever.  The Prequel was not as good.  Some of the characters failed miserably.  But, it did a good job of showing the government go from a Republic to an Empire.  That was well done.  The belief that councils and republics don’t work well continues in Rogue One.  Force Awakens showed us some great new characters, but gave us very little and left with so many questions that it was annoying.  Rogue One does not give great character development, but does a good job of showing the evil of the Empire and the nature of the war that does not come through in the original trilogy. 

Fourth, Rogue One should have had a slightly different ending.  Princess Leia being in that massive fight makes no sense.  Worse yet, the beginning of Star Wars now feels like stupid pathetic lies.  It seems as if Leia and the guy who said it was a diplomatic mission are a little like PR guy for Saddam Hussen. 

Fifth and finally, the technology of allowing dead people to appear in movies is amazing.  It will be bad in the long run as now the dead can be used to advertise beer or Snickers, but it is impressive technology.  The moral questions of who owns the likeness of dead people is what will be interesting.  Still, it cannot be denied that seeing some of the original people was fun. 

Go see the movie, and hopefully Abrams will give us a better movie in 2017.