Peter T Chattaway

Star Wars: Rogue One

168 posts in this topic

On 24/12/2016 at 8:00 AM, Peter T Chattaway said:

BTW, did the subtitles actually identify that planet as Mustafar? I can't remember. I do know I've seen some grumbling about this being the first Star Wars film to have subtitles telling the audience which planet each scene was taking place on.

Good point, I don't think it did. That seems odd.

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Not directly identified, but yeah the directors and writers of the film have confirmed it I believe.

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Four interrelated articles on moral and spiritual issues in Rogue One

First, Jeffrey wrote a piece for CT called "Will the Force Be Strong with Rogue One?" Jeff's central contention: 

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What does make Star Wars unique and beloved?

I think I know. And it has everything to do with Han Solo.

Solo has been, from the beginning, my favorite character. (My 1977 Solo toy plays a central role in my action-figure review of The Force Awakens—which became, overnight, the most popular thing I’ve ever posted online.) Solo represents all of Star Wars’ contradictory tensions in one character. He starts out as a cocky gunslinger, independent, roguishly “secular.” “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side,” he boasts. But we rejoice when he “gets religion.” In time, he commits to a “family” of rebels, risks his life to serve the oppressed, and says “May the Force be with you.” In their hearts, all moviegoers sense that this is an ideal narrative—something better than “Vigilante Hero Stops Evil with Smart Shooting.”

Still, I have mixed feelings as I rotate those action figures around my home-office bookshelves. They represent one contradiction that always threatens to spoil Star Wars. Almost every character comes with a death-dealing accessory. I cringe when I see Star Wars video games, saddened to see players engage the story by shooting—by the use of coercive violence rather than the exercise of mindful restraint.

That’s because I believe that Star Wars storytellers’ emphasis on a spiritual transformation is, far more than any special effects revolution, the real secret to the saga’s enduring popularity. Obi-Wan, Luke, and eventually Han all have defining moments of selfless surrender. Yes, they carry weapons. But they are distinguished by how they put them down and open their hands in risky offers of grace.

I quoted from this passage in my own recent critique of Rogue One's moral murkiness, "What we lose when Star Wars goes to the Dark Side": 

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This is not your father’s Rebel Alliance or your father’s Star Wars. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Some critics have gone so far as to praise Rogue One for its relative realism and darkness, its frank acknowledgement of the ambiguities of the “fog of war.”

My feeling is that we already had pretty much every other pop culture franchise today selling us darkness and ambiguity. Where do we turn today for mythic good-vs.-evil and spiritual uplift?

Yesterday I learned that a professor of theology and culture at John Paul the Great Catholic University had written a rebuttal of my article for Catholic World Report, defending Rogue One (and interacting with Jeff's original piece), "On the Dark and the Light in Star Wars": 

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Up to a point, Greydanus and Overstreet are right. They have identified Star Wars’ beating heart. And it is true that Rogue One is a less ambitious movie than the others. It is true that self-surrender is the key to the victory of good in the Star Wars universe; but it is also true that the way was paved for those triumphant moments of self-surrender by a lot of rebels with blasters in hand—or in X-Wings—shooting down bad guys. Rogue One is their story, it’s a Star Wars story, and it’s a pretty good one.

Rogue One’s descent into darkness and grittiness is really at the service of what Greydanus and Overstreet admire about the original trilogy. Rogue One allows us to glimpse the Rebellion without Skywalkers. The most unambiguously good characters in the original films are Luke and Leia; the other characters (insofar as they are real characters and not just supporting props, like Chewbacca or Admiral Ackbar) are mostly painted in shades of grey. Lando Calrissian and Han Solo are both drawn from their seedy, listless lives by contact with Luke and Leia, who inspire them to nobility, virtue, and dedication to a good cause greater than themselves. Rogue One contributes to the overall Star Wars story by showing a Rebellion strongly tempted to become a terrorist organization—a temptation that can be resisted because of the leadership and example of Leia and eventually Luke.

My reply, which I just blogged ("John Paul the Great professor defends Rogue One"), begins on a note of agreement…

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We are in substantial agreement on a number of points. Harmon acknowledges that Rogue One is far from a perfect film, and sympathizes with with my concern about the general trend of moral murkiness in contemporary Hollywood retellings.

I agree with Harmon, too, that characters in the original films aren’t always as morally clear-cut as one might conclude reading my current article in isolation…

…and ends with one of the stronger statements of disagreement: 

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Harmon’s least persuasive stroke, in my opinion, is suggesting that Rogue One “allows us to glimpse the Rebellion without Skywalkers” — a Rebellion “strongly tempted to become a terrorist organization,” but ultimately resisting this temptation “because of the leadership and example of Leia and eventually Luke.”

First, the Rebellion isn’t without Skywalkers; Leia has been with the Rebellion for some time (“You weren’t on any mercy mission this time”).

Second, the idea that Leia and Luke are personally responsible for the moral character of the Rebellion — shrinking the Star Wars universe still further by making everything more and more about the Skywalkers, a notable pitfall of the prequel trilogy — is not to my mind a felicitous one. Like his friend Biggs, Luke joins a cause he believes in, an “idealistic crusade.” He doesn’t have a transforming effect on it. 

Third, Rogue One doesn’t offer a persuasive narrative of the moral redemption of a movement. Some Rebel characters follow a redemptive arc, but (spoiler alert) in the end they’re all killed, and what survives them is not the story of their moral redemption, but only the stolen Death Star plans.

 

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Cmon! Cassian Andor? Total redemptive arc, starts out the movie willing to kill his own Rebel cohorts to further the cause, ends the movie inspired by Jyn Erso to ultimate self sacrifice, all because he wants to know none of the darker actions of the Rebellion were in vain, and the world that they fought for would itself be better than the Rebellion. He sees this 'new hope' in Jyn's desire to get the death star plans to the Rebellion, and ultimately we are shown he's right. They may not know his redemption story, but we do, and that is good enough for me.

Chirrut Imwe, Saw Gerrera, all of them, even Jyn Erso, they all give their lives for that higher ideal. Not just 'killing bad guys' but ending Empire and giving the galaxy a new hope, and they don't even do it for fame, considering the ideal more important than their own obscurity. The dark path some took to get there doesn't negate the redemptive arc of their final choices to die for higher ideals.

 

 

Edited by Justin Hanvey

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Justin Hanvey wrote:
: Cmon! Cassian Andor? Total redemptive arc . . .

Except *his* redemptive arc does not draw him closer to the Rebellion (the way Han Solo's or Lando Calrissian's do) but takes place entirely within the Rebellion, and it leaves the Rebellion in the hands of people who have *not* had a redemptive moral arc. The Rebellion *itself* needs a redemptive moral arc after this movie, and of course it never gets one, because that would be outside the scope of this movie.

: Chirrut Imwe, Saw Gerrera, all of them, even Jyn Erso, they all give their lives for that higher ideal.

This is not a particularly encouraging point to make when the film has already compared (some of) those characters to modern-day religiously-motivated terrorists. Suicide bombers give their lives for higher ideals too. Besides, does Saw Gerrara really "choose to die"? It's not like he *knew* the Death Star would attack his planet.

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18 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

: Chirrut Imwe, Saw Gerrera, all of them, even Jyn Erso, they all give their lives for that higher ideal.

This is not a particularly encouraging point to make when the film has already compared (some of) those characters to modern-day religiously-motivated terrorists. Suicide bombers give their lives for higher ideals too. Besides, does Saw Gerrara really "choose to die"? It's not like he *knew* the Death Star would attack his planet.

Agreed. I don't see Saw Gerrara's death as redemptive at all, apart from his brief reconciliation with Jyn. A redemptive death requires an act to save someone else, and I don't recall Saw necessarily doing or saying anything that would bring about salvation for any of his band of desert terrorists, nor for Jyn and Co. And even Jyn's motives feel a bit mixed, as the film hammers home the relationship between her and her father, and it seems like she chooses to go on the rogue mission to get the Death Star plans as a response to the death of her father. She's partly living out her father's ideals, not necessarily her own, though it could be argued that she adopts those ideals in light of his death.

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45 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

 

Except *his* redemptive arc does not draw him closer to the Rebellion (the way Han Solo's or Lando Calrissian's do) but takes place entirely within the Rebellion.

It draws him towards the better ideals for the rebellion that Erso has. The ideals that Andor ironically helps her begin to have with his quip about rebellions built on hope.

45 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

This is not a particularly encouraging point to make when the film has already compared (some of) those characters to modern-day religiously-motivated terrorists. Suicide bombers give their lives for higher ideals too. Besides, does Saw Gerrara really "choose to die"? It's not like he *knew* the Death Star would attack his planet.

Higher ideals are not the imperialism and warmonging you usually see suicide bombers dying for in history, nor "killing the bad guys" as Steven has pointed to above. Key word there, "bombers". They gave their lives after Erso's inspiring speech. Those are the ideals I'm talking about, hope, etc

Gerrera for all his terroristic tendencies and I'm not gonna argue their validity  (this is a film about the dark side of rebellions as well) does choose to stay behind and die (in a sense allowing his old tactical ideology of rebellion die with him for Erso's more hopeful one) as well as mentions "the dream". What is this dream, liberation from empire. His ideals aren't all problematic. He also cares for Jyn like a father and his choice to let her see her father's message etc. There's something redemptive there. 

 

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34 minutes ago, Joel Mayward said:

Agreed. I don't see Saw Gerrara's death as redemptive at all, apart from his brief reconciliation with Jyn. A redemptive death requires an act to save someone else, and I don't recall Saw necessarily doing or saying anything that would bring about salvation for any of his band of desert terrorists, nor for Jyn and Co. And even Jyn's motives feel a bit mixed, as the film hammers home the relationship between her and her father, and it seems like she chooses to go on the rogue mission to get the Death Star plans as a response to the death of her father. She's partly living out her father's ideals, not necessarily her own, though it could be argued that she adopts those ideals in light of his death.

Any writer or narrative creator will tell you redemptive arcs don't always involve saving lives. Sometimes they are simply making better choices than the ones you previously made.

Jyn herself actually starts out reluctant yes, but remember her inspiring speech and her belief in rebellions built on hope, that's not just pretend, there's conviction in those words. So yes, it's obvious to me she adopts those ideals for herself.

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Justin Hanvey wrote:
: Higher ideals are not the imperialism and warmonging you usually see suicide bombers dying for in history . . .

Not sure what you're referring to here. Suicide bombers, in reality and fiction, have frequently been *anti*-imperialist, at least as they see it. (From a certain point of view, if you will.) (For some reason right now I'm thinking of the Cuban suicide bomber in The Godfather Part II.)

Besides, who's to say that "imperialism" isn't a higher ideal? "With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy." How is that not a higher ideal? It might not be *your* higher ideal, but it's *someone's*.

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<---Inserts plug for Jacques Ellul's challenging but (for me) inspiring, Anarchy and Christianity. 

The issue (for me) is not whether someone using violence does so in service of the right ideals, its whether violence is compatible with the ideology and institutional structures promoting and supporting those ideals. 

More here: http://1morefilmblog.com/2009/07/10/anarchy-at-the-movies-part-ii/

 

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5 hours ago, Justin Hanvey said:

Any writer or narrative creator will tell you redemptive arcs don't always involve saving lives. Sometimes they are simply making better choices than the ones you previously made.

I specified "redemptive death" as opposed to "redemptive arc."

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I dont see the difference.

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Gareth Edwards on why the iconic shot of Jyn in Imperial armor never made the final film:

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"Someone called her, and she just turned around a little bit and I was like, ‘Oh my god that looked great.’ And I was like ‘Stop stop stop!’ and everyone stopped. ‘This will take 10 seconds, just roll camera.’ Then, obviously, ten seconds turned into a half hour, and we probably did 17 takes. So that ended and there’s that feeling of, ‘Well what was that for?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know. That just felt good.’"

Edwards even cops to forgetting about the shot completely until the marketing team found the footage and put it into the trailer.

 

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On 1/7/2017 at 0:31 PM, Joel Mayward said:

Everyone keeps talking about that shot not being in the film, but I don't think it's representative of all the missing footage. I mean, at least Jyn does still don an Imperial uniform in the movie, even though that shot doesn't appear. There is SO MUCH other footage missing. In fact, just this weekend my FB newsfeed was filled with a "See it again!" trailer from Disney/Lucasfilm, and it continues to show shots of Jyn fighting AT-ATs on the beach.

The "iconic" shot of Jyn kind of reminds me of this promo shot of Luke from ESB, which was never in the film either. I always thought it was weird that he was cupping his hand around the hot part of the blade.

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More and more interviews have indicated that the marketing team knowingly built the ads out of cut material.

The more I read about this film's production, the more inclined I am to blame Edwards for its considerable failings, not Disney. It seems like he didn't really know what he wanted, just blindly shooting reams of footage, and it was only after Disney realized the movie wasn't coming together that they pushed for the extensive reworking of the film.

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Jack Graham argues that the movie is actually less ambiguous, in some ways, than the previous movies:

The ambiguous figure of Saw Gerrera makes the general trend of the film’s sympathies plain.  He is Jyn’s saviour and mentor, even if he was erratic in that role.  He is said by the ‘official’ ‘respectable’ Rebellion to be an “extremist” and a “militant”, etc (all big Bad words, traditionally used for describing Bad People).  He is a sort of Rebel analogue of Darth Vader: an estranged paternal figure, disfigured and maimed, cybernetic, ready to use torture, ruthless, wheezing on breathing apparatus, etc.  But his very similarity is interesting.  Rather than the role such a similarity would usually play, in Rogue One it disambiguates rather than ambiguates, dissociates one side from another instead of associating.  Rather than saying ‘see how similar the two sides are... if you fight the baddies you become the baddies’, Rogue One seems to say ‘superficial similarities aside, there are real and substantial moral differences’.  Instead of the usual more-grown-up-than-thou ‘complexity’ and ‘nuance’ which sees the goodies as becoming ‘just as bad’ as the baddies because they don’t play nice, Rogue One says ‘you can play dirty and still be a good guy - it depends on what you’re fighting for, and who you’re fighting’.  This isn’t a radical and subversive manifesto… but in a popular popcorny bit of multi-million dollar multiplex media production, it’s rather refreshing.

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Graham, again:

Galen clearly does not share any fondness for Krennic.  At most, Mads Mikkelsen implies a sadness, even a fearful pity, in Galen towards his old friend.  And Krennic doesn’t really want actual affection or sex from Galen.  It is a portrait not of destructive homosexuality per se, but of toxic, destructive, abusive masculinity - which can happen in gay men just as it can happen in all men in a patriarchal society.  The urge on Krennic’s part is to master and subjugate that which represents his own weakness, as he sees it, much as Iago’s intense attraction to Othello is based not on homosexual desire (as some critics have thought) but on a need to eradicate a reminder of his own hollowness and filthiness.  Iago wants to obliterate his own meaninglessness, and destroys Othello because Othello’s meaningfulness, his fullness and content, is a dreadful implicit reproach.  Such behaviours are built on the very unconsciousness of emptiness which is usually denied in the fictional portrayal of evil.  

(By the way, the film is careful to buttress Krennic with no less than two positive depictions of love between males.  As noted, K2SO clearly loves Andor.  K2 is definitely coded as male, unlike BB8.  Pleasingly, K2’s reprogramming seems to have made him free to give allegiance where he wishes, rather than simply reassigning his enforced obedience to new masters.  He can disobey orders.  He directs his allegiance into a passionate platonic (presumably!) friendship with Andor.  More clearly, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus are obviously a couple of some kind.  And there is also the lovely decision to keep the relationship between Jyn and Cassian platonic.  By the end of the film they clearly love each other in some way, but do not kiss.  All this, coupled with the actual mechanics of the Krennic-Galen relationship, makes it difficult to see the film as picking on homosexuality particularly.  Clearly, a lot of thought went into this.)

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