I haven’t done this in a while, so let’s talk Star Wars. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but there may be spoilers here.
Rogue One. Yes, it has flaws. No, I don’t care. I’m seeing a lot of hate online, but to my mind, everything that is being touted as a flaw actually strengthens the movie. The film was technically excellent, brilliant visuals, solid acting, great direction and sound, but mediocre meta-plot (let’s chase the info around), and a few largely pointless characters. In fact, I’d say this movie was solid overall. Yes, it could have been more, specifically underutilizing the threat of Vader, but it also could have been so much worse. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
So quick summary. This is, for my money, the best movie set in the Star Wars universe. However, this is NOT the best Star Wars movie. I say that because Rogue One does not follow the same beats as a traditional Star Wars movie. This isn’t a lonely boy-child rises to be the chosen one in a black and white universe where no one has even heard of moral ambiguity. This was a team effort, not Jedi saves/destroys the day yet again. We deviate from the Action/Adventure Space Fantasy for prepubescent teens and get a more grown-up movie without going all grim-dark.
For me, the modelling, set re-creation, and general feel of the move to reflect New Hope was a winner, but this was then built on by adding action & combat sequences that were actually really well done.
So to address the criticisms
Characters being too ‘special’.
There seems to be a lot of angst that these characters aren’t ‘everyman’ characters rising to overcome their humble backgrounds to become true heroes. Bollocks. Screw the hero’s journey, it’s been done to death in the main storylines.
In this instance, all the characters (even Bodhi in many ways) are outstanding individuals. They have to be if they have even the slightest chance of succeeding against an opponent with overwhelming superiority in manpower and resources. Jyn at 16 was an exceptional soldier in the most extreme faction of the rebellion (before succumbing to abandonment issues). Chirrut was an elite defender of the old Jedi temple only a few steps down from a Jedi himself (before the temple got trashed). Baze is packing a Mandalorian weapon and skill set. Even Cassius is one of the rebellions best operatives. These guys are all flawed, but they are badass and know what they’re doing. They have to be because they’re going up against an entrenched enemy stronghold and insurmountable odds.
This movie had characters, rather than caricatures. Star Wars has always required a suspension of disbelief, I mean who seriously doesn’t think Obi-Wan wouldn’t have spaced Luke the first chance he got after seeing he had all of Anakin’s worst traits? In this iteration, the characters were so much more believable and that allowed me to invest more heavily in the story.
As an added bonus, in this movie the Stormtroopers haven’t been told to deliberately miss, so they are a viable foe.
The Empire in this one is real, it’s in your face and active in every aspect of the world. This is an entrenched power, confident in its superiority. The rebel faction is at best an irritation, a gnat that is too agile for the behemoth to swat. That, right there, is the empires only weakness. It is too big, too powerful, too entrenched. With that size comes all the baggage of command structures, bureaucracy, petty power struggles, and an inability to react quickly to threats such as surprise rebel fleet attacks, or a surgical insertion of elite saboteurs. You know, those guerrilla tactics effective against a superior but inflexible opponent. Make no mistake, the Empire at no point appears threatened by these Rebels, and that is how it should be… right up to the moment their Achilles Heel is struck in episode IV.
oh, so many shout outs.
- Tarkin was being very Tarkinish
- Goldenrod and the blue beeper make an appearance… fanservice… Meh. (but I kind of cheered at the time).
- Senator Organa makes an appearance… kind of nice (I kind of grinned at the time)
- … and mentioned a female Jedi who he’d been hiding (yep… definite Clone-Wars grin at that one).
- Vader was in a bacta tank (cheers),
- … then made a ‘choke on it’ quip (groaned, but remembering the whiney arsed Hayden Christensen portrayal of Anakin, reluctantly accepted it),
- Vader did some Sith stuff (totally just fan service… yet WOW… totally worth it!)
Yeah, we could talk about Vader, Krennic and (maybe even Galen Erso, or General Draven) here but the true villain is the in-fighting that palgues Empire and the paralytic indecision on the Rebel; side. Krennic knows there has been a leak and is too busy trying to save his arse to simply quarantine the files or let anyone up the chain know that there could be an issue. Everyone else is going ‘we had a leak, your security sucks’ while Krennic knows full well the source was his chief engineer, a guy who just happens to have nothing left to lose. He’s the ONLY one who understands the seriousness of the issue, and he dies with his secrets. On the other side, Rogue One isn’t just fighting the Empire. It is also fighting the lack of support and entrenched leadership by committee, and that’s an enemy we can all relate to.
The Robot wasn’t funny
WTF? Seriously, what part of Star Wars has ever been funny? C3PO whinged, Jar-Jar annoyed, and even BB-whatever was merely cute. Star wars never did funny outside a bit of teenage pandering slapstick. That may be why I found the occasional dialogue induced chortle in this movie so refreshing. K-2SO wasn’t an amusing sidekick, it was a character that happened to be a robot.
This movie doesn’t need to exist
Okay, that’s true. But I’m very glad that it does. It’s just a shame that we aren’t likely to see these particular actors return to the Universe again.
This movie should have been the Saving Private Ryan of Star Wars
Yes, that would have been cool, but in case you missed the memo, Disney now owns Star Wars. So that was never going to happen.
Oh and Rogue One Easter Eggs That Slipped Right By You…
… I wonder if there is going to be a whole new generation of baby girls named Jyn now?
This is an excellent concept, and should be enforced by PHS (Publishing House Stormtroopers). You will comply in all instances where the location of the characters is in any way important. I’m already tracking counter-intuitive fantasy names, so if I need to have some idea where each unpronounceable city/mountain/ruin is, your story is becoming more of a chore than an escape.
… also, I love to see characters spend ages trudging between nearby cities and then apparently teleporting between distant locations… it’s magic… or maybe just the need for a good continuity edit.
He knows your inner secrets, he can awaken your deepest desires.
Come in. Worship at his feet. Be adored. Be consumed.
Have fun you lovebirds… I could just eat you all up 🙂
A lesson in communication…
Ah the moral quandary of using faith and religion in a work of fiction. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, someone is going to get offended. Start toying with demons and angels (The Unseen) too, and you’re in for some flak. I guess its safer to go pure fantasy, because if you stray too close to home there can be some real dilemmas in how to portray entities that a sizeable part of our population has vested interest in.
The only thing worse than upsetting people by portraying their beliefs inaccurately is upsetting people by portraying their faith too accurately.
So what did the one ring actually do?
If you’re like me and found the Silmarillion to hard to slog through, here is the answer in a visually pleasing nutshell.
PS NSFW On Eagles
… I find nothing more annoying than a fantasy novel that reads like a table-top game. Too many main characters, not enough back-story, and combatants walk away from every conflict as right as rain, because they still have that single hit-point left. Dungeons & Dragons has as much to answer for, as it has to be thanked for.
In the beginning was paranoia… and it was not good. As technology progresses we increasingly find that those who police it have little understanding of what they are looking at.
My first introduction, outside the Pern series, was a wonderful little novel by Rose Estes, called Children of the Dragon. It made such an impression on me as a young reader that I went out and bought a copy 10 years later, to give to any hatchlings that I might spawn.
In Epic fantasy they’re majestic forces of destruction, dominating the skies and laying waste to whole nations. While in Urban have somehow shrunk to pocket-sized comic relief, often found setting fire to expensive things in the underwear drawer.
Either way, I want to write dragons… but I’m not that brave yet. Dragons have to be treated carefully, with asbestos lined, kid gloves.
So… Dragons? … a mainstay of fantasy that lifts us from the page and into the worlds on fire-wreathed wings? Or a tired cliché best left off the page? Thoughts?
Comments more than welcome…
EDIT: until I was about to write this I actually had no idea that Estes had written a whole slew of books. You live and learn.
Oh, its cute now.
You just wait till it grows up and sets fire to your bath robe.
Technically I’m supposed to identify my top 10 books… problem is I couldn’t narrow it down to my top 100. What I can do is write down the first ten that spring to mind, and explain why. Of course, if I did this again in a month, we’d probably have a completely different list. There’s the rub…
- A Rustle in the Grass – Robin Hawdon
- Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
- Lord of the Rings – like you don’t know who wrote this
- The Wars of Light and Shadow series – Janny Wurts
- Dresden Files – Jim Butcher
- Wizards First Rule – Terry Goodkind
- Malazan Books of the Fallen – Steven Erikson
- American Gods – Neil Gaiman
- Mindstar Rising – Peter F. Hamilton
- The Broken Empire series – Mark Lawrence
#1 As a child this book both traumatised me and opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world. I would recommend it to anyone of any age. It is both epically awesome and terribly intimate.
#2 Snow Crash, cyberpunk in its earlier forms. So much of this book deals with far deeper concepts than simple technology development. Amazing how a book published in ’92 can be simultaneously dated, prescient, and timeless.
#3 Lord of the Rings. I first read this when I found it in my primary school library when I was 10 or 12. The starting point of modern fantasy, with all its inherent problems of sexism, racism, and yet makes the real world all the duller when you are forced to return to it. I re-read this every few years, but I confess I no longer read the hobbit chapters. I’m in this for the world, not the characters.
#4 Fantasy got complicated here, there was no good/bad line, and antagonist had motivation and justifications. The writing was dense, the politics Machiavellian, and the magic was awesome. Even the SF elements that crept in couldn’t derail this story for me. It also hammered home the fact that perception is often far more important than reality.
#5 Dresden Files. My guilty pleasure, these are the penny dreadful’s of modern fantasy offerings. Easy to read, a great way to pass the time and a bit of humour thrown in. These are books you walk away from thinking ‘what a rush’ without needing to sit down on the couch for the rest of the day to process some deeper meaning. The Dresden Files do what so many other books, even the good ones, don’t. They entertain.
#6 I enjoyed this on my first read, it was light, fluffy and didn’t fill you up between meals. There were moments when I wanted to reach into the novel and slap some sense into the characters, and that’s really what stuck with me all these years. When a book makes you mutter ‘you dumb mother %#@%er’ every few pages it leaves a mark… possibly a bruise. Then I read it again and realised this book wasn’t just frustrating, it was bad, very, very bad. A plot with no originality and no surprises, a cast of characters so 2 dimensional they’d cut you if you shook hands with them. Bad dialogue, worse pacing, and the ultimate magic was the power of being stupid. I still re-read Goodkind books occasionally, simply to harvest the elemental rage they generate.
PS I’m a huge fan of the TV show, Tabrett Bethell absolutely rocks.
#7 Now this is a world and mythology to lose yourself in. To be honest I a little astonished it got published given the style, but man I’m glad it did.
#8 I admit to my heresy, I’m not overly a Neil Gaiman fan. This book, however… downright awesome.
#9 Another heresy, I like his earlier work more than his later works.
#10 Lots of writers have done the anti-hero and done it well, Moorcock gave us Elric of Melniboné, even Pratchett gave us Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. Lawrence gives us a character that is no way likeable, but is very understandable. You want him to win even more than you want him to get a comeuppance. Consider the anti-hero nailed.
Not all stories are told in prose…