I did it. I watched Rogue One by myself after work yesterday. I knew that if I didn’t take this step, I wouldn’t watch the movie until it appeared either on some streaming site or on Blu-Ray. I can’t tell you why I was so compelled to watch it. It probably has more to do with the fact that I actually had the time to entertain the thought than anything else.
I went into the movie with a vague understanding of what the film was about: the mission to retrieve the Death Star schematics prior to the events of A New Hope. As other articles have pointed out, Rogue One lacks the Star Wars signature text crawl at the start of the film – likely because the entire synopsis of the movie is basically encapsulated in the crawl for A New Hope. That said, I already knew the outcome, I was only interested in the how. And I suppose that’s the biggest problem with the movie.
While the same can be said about The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, it’s the narrowness of Rogue One that prevented me from investing fully in its characters and overall plot. Basically, the three prequels mentioned above are akin to a three-act play with references to a previous three-act play, while Rogue One is the answer key to two pages of a Star Wars Mad Libs selection that covers the week before A New Hope. We already know they’re going to succeed. We already know many people lost their lives to obtain this information. I didn’t believe the movie did enough to make me care about the characters, but maybe that was by design. They all die. Disney billed Rogue One as a standalone Star Wars movie, but it is not.
What Rogue One is, is an invitation to a luncheon by your college alma mater. It immediately smacks of nostalgia, but contextually, everything is significantly different. Some of your friends tell you they are going, and while that seems promising, you know there is a solid chance life will happen and some of them will not show up at all. You hope the food will be good, but would settle for a few key dishes and Coca-Cola. When you arrive, you notice familiar trappings like banners and the school colors, but you don’t recognize anyone. You’re making small talk and getting to know a bunch of kids who graduated attended 5 years after you so you have no real point of reference or anything in common other than getting thrown into the fountain on your birthday. But then an hour in, a couple of your contemporaries walk in and things pick up. It starts to feel like old times. But then an hour later they leave. Finally just when you’re about to give up hope, your group of friends shows up; people start ordering drinks; the good times are rehashed – you hear the same old stories and one or two new ones; and all you know is that you don’t want it to end. But you already know that it’s going to end, how it’s going to end. You’ve known all along. But for those few hours? You’re just grateful they happened.