When you reach a certain age you must come to terms with uncomfortable truths. No matter how much we want to ignore reality, some things are impossible to overlook. Maybe college was not a good idea, perhaps your money is better spent on bills, the Kardashians are more product than people, and Hillary Clinton will never be president. Acceptance is inevitable when it comes to entertainment. Walking Dead was never good after season 1, most anime is trash, Saturday Night Live stopped being watchable after they got rid of the talented people, and Big Bang Theory is a poison to rival Zyklon B. Recently, the hardest truth many of us are coming to realize is Force Awakens may have ruined Star Wars.
With the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, long-form film series have become the next big thing. Studios are building large, interconnected franchises to match Disney’s success. Warner Brothers is using DC, Sony failed with Ghostbusters (2016) and Amazing Spider-Man, and Universal is making an attempt with their monster characters. With the acquisition of Star Wars, we will see a new movie every year with every other release being an Episode.
I do not like the prospect to say the least. Star Wars was always just those main Episodes while the expanded universe was on the fringes. It is difficult to put into words, but that made the movies all the more significant. They were monolithic events that defined the universe and continued the sci-fi fantasy saga. Each one was like a long-awaited release of a new book that had new lore to discover within its pages. Even when you watch each film back to back they continue to inspire awe and I fear we will not feel that anymore.
Being a gamer I have learned that once you annualize anything, it begins to stagnate faster than the concept of honesty in mainstream news. At the start you come to really like a new piece of media before more entries follow. As you play, watch or read more, you get a little tired of it and want something different. I remember when I played Call of Duty and loved the absolute shit out if it. Now I look at Infinite Warfare and feel nostalgic for the original WWII shooter. The same happened to Assassin’s Creed and it will happen to Star Wars. Though only half of the new movies will matter, that does not change the fact there will be a film named Star Wars, with things from Star Wars, coming out every year.
That is my main concern going into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. My other concern is the giant Tumblr in the room. At the risk of alienating my friends, I must point out the infiltration of Social Justice into my Star Wars. I understand why there is a diverse group of characters, but the inclusion of people of color is such a blatantly empty sympathy tactic. By requirement the production included one of each culture like Noah gathering two of each animal. I feel it in my gut they picked an Asian, a Black, an Arab, a Latino, and a cripple like they were checking them off a list. They had to pander to all the whiners and agitators who are so focused on diversity they are more racist than real racists.
For a while I thought my hatred of Social Justice made me paranoid on this matter until I saw that two of the film’s writers, Gary Whitta and Chris Weitz, were brainwashed ideologues. On social media they said the Empire is a pro-human white supremacist organization and the Rebels are multi-cultural. Last I checked, the Empire readily employed the help of aliens, Darth Vader had the voice of a black man, and they used Lando Calrissian for a major military operation. Furthermore, most of the Rebels were pretty white and human until Return of the Jedi.
Putting aside the fact we are arguing culture and politics in regards to pure fiction, can I not enjoy something without Social Justice Warriors trying to shove their pinko commie cocks down my throat? I stopped reading a lot of Marvel comics because hacks like Nick Spencer (hope you are reading this, prick) could not help but inject their politics into their work. Red Skull cannot be just a Nazi bastard; he has to be an analogist for Donald Trump. Angela has to fight Men’s Rights Activists that represent the Patriarchy instead of real bad guys. Hydra has to recruit from the uneducated, downtrodden Middle Class to serve as gun totting henchmen.
I cannot read, watch, or play anything anymore without seeing the agenda of a Marxist Anti-Semite buried in subtext. Suddenly being culturally colorblind is racist because we are not allowed acknowledge the quality of character. Being white, male, and heterosexual means I am racist, islamaphobic, and transphobic. Women and people of color are being oppressed by the Patriarchy using capitalism, ignoring the number of laws that already protect both.
It is bad enough that Stars Wars is on the verge of ruination by annualization. Social Justice will utterly destroy the series by breeding a political environment, whether intentional or not. The once fantastical epic about good versus evil will be saturated by manufactured diversity and outdated ideological views. Entertainment media will become the propaganda arm of mental patients that mean to divide us. I fear for the future of this great franchise, but all that matters is if the movie is actually good. Should you skip Rogue One entirely or does the quality outweigh the political motive?
Upon gaining intelligence on an Imperial super-weapon, the Rebel Alliance enlists the help of Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, whose father is involved in the weapon’s creation.
The most difficult aspect of Rogue One to accept is that it is not a traditional Star Wars film. The look, tone, story, and characters are the complete antithesis of what we are used to. Instead of a sweeping epic with a big-picture scale, we get a personal and gritty narrative that has more in common with the likes of Fury and Cross of Iron.
Each set piece or part of the movie is liken to Special Forces wet-works missions where the Rogue One team sneaks, stalks, and kills their way to objectives. The war aspect is really brought to the fore, showing what happens behind the scenes of the exciting battle sequences we are used to. In the Episodes we always saw them up front and immediate. Here the battles are relatively small and intense until the finale where all the minute actions come to a head. There are explosions, people dying, and loud noises like the opening to Saving Private Ryan.
Rogue One does a good job of showing off this shadowy side of the universe. There was always a hint of a larger, moral grey area with the smugglers, bounty hunters, and kingpins beneath the facade of sci-fi fantasy. Here, in the context of warfare, the focus is on what the Rebels must do in the face of overwhelming odds. Imagine Czech partisans fighting an underground battle with the Nazis, but with Star Wars. On that merit the film succeeds, but that does not hide the ever-present mediocrity.
The ideas that are great and set it apart from the norm are held down by a complete lack of substance. Everything that happens, even the cool stuff, is just stuff. There are Stormtroopers, droids, X-Wings, walkers, and blasters in service to this effervescent nothing that does not go anywhere. You have a group of characters with their own personalities and quirks that leave no emotional impact during their time on screen. They are simply people with gimmicks.
It also does not help that most of the cast is more limp than a wet noodle. Jones remains incapable of emoting when her character is supposed to be experiencing true hardship. Diego Luna could not sell the troubled soldier archetype and settled on slightly bored tough guy. A master in his own right, Donnie Yen showed off his brilliant martial arts skills, while his partner Wen Jiang did not do much. Riz Ahmed, probably one of the best new talents to arrive in years, turned off said talent. Alan Tudyk stole the show as he tried his hardest to make the whole affair worth the trouble. Ben Mendelsohn should have had a bigger role as a pretty decent antagonist, but he did the best he could.
Coming back to the checklist nature of the cast, at least no one was a stereotype. Yen as the blind force-senstive martial artist could have been a problem if this were not Star Wars where people like him exist. What defined them was their roles on the team with the pilot, heavy weapons guy, and melee specialist. That being said, they still were not fleshed-out characters. I felt personality with no substance like the rest of the film. Tudyk and Mendelsohn were the only two that had anything going for them outside their archetypes. As the main character, Jones had depth, but her performance negated whatever might have been there. That is the same problem that kept Suicide Squad from being good. The select characters were only there for name recognition with no regard for making them feel like people. Joker was Joker, Deadshot was Deadshot, and Harley Quinn was Harley Quinn.
Regardless of the intent behind the casting decisions, the fact the issue of substance was baked in from the start makes whatever argument either I or others could make totally superfluous. It is like Ghostbusters (2016) where complaining about it did not matter because the movie was already terrible.
The only reason to have any sort of investment in what is going on is if you like all the Star Wars stuff without what made it great. If you want modern warfare-type combat, large battles, and a dogfight in space with all your favorite ships, this is the movie for you. I concede that there were some parts I really enjoyed like the Death Troopers, Director Krennic, and the final five minutes in which I felt excitement for the first time in two hours of nothing at all. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not a failure, but it is not my Star Wars.