Well em gee… December sure flew by! As a reminder, for blog-only subscribers, you can follow me on Facebook (and now, on Twitter!) to keep up with my various writings. Despite appearances, I haven’t been wholly inactive this month. You can read my two latest articles for The Stream from my author’s page here. Both of them tie film together with life issues such as abortion and assisted suicide.
Today, we’re back with something lighter: another blockbuster deep dive in two parts with Little Sister, thus expanding the series which I’ve chosen to christen “Two Sisters Review.” WARNING: Thar be SPOILERS! Proceed at your own risk.
Today, we cover stand-out new characters, likes and dislikes about character arcs, plot holes, and how we feel about the shades of grey it introduces into Star Wars morality. Tomorrow, we’ll cover Darth Vader (force-chokes! bad puns!), the new villain, more plot holes, Rogue One As War Movie, CGI… characters, and oh yes, shipping. Read on, and stay tuned!
Me: All right, we just got back from Rogue One! This was my second time seeing the film, your first time. First impressions, what do you think?
Little Sister: Darker. Sadder. But really, really well done.
Me: So, do you think it lives up to the hype?
LS: You know, I haven’t really been looking at a lot of hype, but I’m sure if I know anything about hype these days, I’m pretty sure it did.
Me: Did it deliver what you wanted out of it?
LS: I think I wanted to see something that wasn’t just a ripoff of some other movie, and I didn’t necessarily mind that, it didn’t really bother me with The Force Awakens, where everyone was saying “Oh, it’s a remake of A New Hope.” But I did want to see something different, and I got it.
Me: Yeah, I think you felt that from the opening moment. The way it just puts you in there with no crawl, no fanfare, it’s just like bam.
LS: Very nice, yes.
Me: We’ll talk a little bit about the music. It was composed by Michael Giacchino, not John Williams. If I hadn’t told you that, would you have thought it was still John Williams?
LS: I thought it was John Williams! I was sitting there like, “Oh wow, this is really good, it’s a new theme!… Oh, that wasn’t him.”
Me: It was a pretty good imitation of the real deal, I think.
Okay, stand-out new character?
LS: Ummmmm, K2-SO.
Me: I think that’s who I would settle on as well.
LS: Maybe Cassian too, ‘cuz he’s pretty cool.
Me: Cassian is pretty cool, but I gotta go with K2 as well, even though he’s not a human.
LS: Of course! Doesn’t really matter.
Me: He felt a little better developed than a couple of the human characters, funnily enough.
LS: [giggling] Yeah, he did actually.
Me: Man, oh man, he had just some of the greatest lines.
LS: And I liked the way they worked humor into this movie, because it’s so sad. They did a very nice job of balancing it out. They didn’t shove it in at the wrong moments, but they didn’t hold back on it either. They kind of tried to put it in just the right places, and I think they succeeded.
Me: Right I agree. They knew that you needed something to lighten it up, because…
LS: Otherwise, it was gonna be like, “We’re not taking our kids to this movie!”
Me: It would be a pretty depressing slog, otherwise. Some of the funniest lines came from Chirrut, the blind guy, who was pretty epic too.
LS: He was. He was cool.
Me: He and K2 are kind of vying for stand-out character. I think maybe my favorite Chirrut line is when Saw Guerrera’s guys are taking him away, and they put the bag over his head, and he’s like, “Are you kidding me?? I’m blind!” That was awesome.
LS: I know. [giggling]
Me: Perfect line. Perfect delivery. So great.
Okay, what was your favorite K2-SO snark?
LS: “You know what the chances are of her using that against you?…They’re high.”
Me: “It’s high.”
LS: “Very high.”
Me: “It’s very high.” That was a great one. I liked the one where they’re coming in for a landing, and he’s like “There is a 25% chance of failure… Well, now, there’s a 35% chance of failure…” (“I don’t want to know, thank you!”) Maybe one of my favorites is when they first touch down and Cassian goes, “We’ll need a map.” “Well, I’m sure there’s one just lying about.”
LS: I know. My thoughts exactly, basically. [laughing]
Me: You know, when I first saw the promos for K2-SO, I wasn’t sure what direction they were going to take him, and I thought maybe he was just gonna be C3-PO redux.
LS: Another droid.
Me: Right, but he’s not. He’s very different from C3-PO. He’s got his own personality.
Me: For sure. C3-PO was never, he didn’t have that dry snark. He was always just…
LS: The worrier.
Me: [Anthony Daniels voice] “Oh, oh help! Oh dear! Oh my! Oh, oh, this is terrible!”
LS: He needed to chill.
Me: Right. He was the neurotic, panicked…
LS: Nervous ninny.
Me: …flailing droid. “Ohhhhh, I’m melting! Oh, I’ve forgotten how much I detest space travel.” But K2 has a snark for everything. And also, he’s a fighter. C3-PO wasn’t a fighter, but K2…
LS: Good shot.
Me: I know. Man, epic last stand, even though he was a droid…
LS: You don’t think about the fact that they’re just droids, because they don’t seem like that.
Me: Yeah, I think it’s like when a loyal dog dies.
LS: Yeah, except more, because they can talk.
Me: True, that’s true. But okay, if we think about this from the theologically correct perspective, a droid doesn’t have a soul, and neither does a dog.
LS: But it’s just… it seems like they do, I don’t know how to put it!
Me: I know, it’s tempting.
LS: I mean, it doesn’t seem like everything is just programmed in for them to say it.
Me: I know, it’s very, very tempting.
Oh man, we’ll have plenty more to say about the ending. Let’s talk a little bit about the look of the film, the feel of it. How do you think it measured up for you as a die-hard fan of the first Star Wars? How did it make the universe feel period-correct for that time?
LS: You know, I think I’m a little more open to newer things, because, I don’t know, I guess…
Me: Maybe you’re not as die-hard as all that?
LS: You know, I wouldn’t say that. I am a really big fan of the originals. But I think I’m not quite as “It has to be perfect, and I’ve memorized absolutely everything.”
Me: Like me.
LS: Yes, yes, like you. “Hmmmm, I gotta get my magnifying glass here, oh it looks like it’s not exactly like the original!” But I do think, having said all that, I do think that they did do a good job of maybe taking some better technology, obviously, that we have now, but still giving it that sort of “New Hopey” feel.
Me: Yeah, there were just so many different little things. The binoculars that they use are exactly like Luke’s binoculars. There are Easter eggs scattered around, of course, some of which you might or might not catch. I caught all of them.
LS: Oh, of course you did, yes.
Me: I just loved the attention to detail with the weapons, the technology, the clothing. It had that same slightly dirtier, lived-in feel that the first Star Wars had. That kind of gritty feel, even though it is a fairytale and a space opera, it feels very grounded.
LS: I never think about it that way, even though it is technically correct, I never think about it as a fairy-tale.
Me: I mean, certainly, the original Star Wars has elements of fairy-tale in it. For example, Obi-Wan Kenobi, very similar to Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. And the whole mythos of the Jedi and the lore of the lightsabers and stuff…you’ve got the hero, the princess, the villain, the princess is rescued, and all that stuff.
But yeah, I think they did a fantastic job of maintaining that period continuity there.
So, to talk a little bit about some cons of the movie, it did undergo several re-shoots, and maybe as a result of that it felt somewhat choppy, slapped together in places, particularly in the beginning.
LS: I liked the first half though. I don’t think it was badly done. I didn’t actually know they’d tried to do a whole bunch of re-shoots, so I would have thought it was fine.
Me: Well, it seemed to me like they were introducing everybody in kind of a choppy way…
LS: “We will say their name once. You shall know it for the rest of the movie, right? Right.”
Me: Exactly. I could not keep track of everyone’s names the first time.
LS: Well, what was the name of Chirrut’s sidekick guy? What was it?
Me: See, I’m STILL not sure what his name was. I feel like it was said somewhere…
LS: That guy.
Me: That guy. If it was, I missed it. “The guy with the giant gun who’s, who, uh…”
LS: Dies tragically.
Me: Well, they all die tragically, but we’ll get there. But yeah, I feel like the actors rose above the characters a little bit, because I was left wanting to know more about them. And if you think about it, we really got little to no backstory on any of them, except for Jyn Erso.
LS: Yeah. Very true. Basically it was just like, “Ohhhh, oh, oh they had a dark past.” I was feeling like K2 says, “That’s a vague…”
Me: I find that… backstory vague and unconvincing.
LS: Yes! [giggling]
Me: Oh man, another great line.
LS: I’m using that! I’m stealing that line. I am so stealing that line.
Me: Totally. “I find that answer vague and unconvincing,” this is going to become my motto now.
LS: Mine too, so we can share the motto.
Me: Okay, let’s focus some more on Jyn and on Captain Cassian. That prologue was really fantastic, I think.
LS: With her as a kid.
Me: Yeah, I think it was one of the best openings to a Star Wars movie that I’ve ever seen.
LS: Yeah, it just slams you, and you’re like, “Yep, her mom’s gonna die, and then she’s gonna have to run off as a little kid.” I liked the way they did that kid actor. She looked very kind of ragged.
Me: She looked a lot like Felicity Jones. They really found someone who looked like her, and a good little actress.
LS: Yeah, and the hair, with the strands in front.
Me: I know, I know, with the pigtails!
LS: I like that hairstyle, by the way. She keeps it pretty immaculate throughout.
LS: It’s kind of like it’s supposed to look messy anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. Oh, and do you ever notice… okay, let me just go on a little rant, this bothers me in movies: when characters have been, y’know, awake for some crazy number of days and slogging through all conditions and blah-blah-blah, all of a sudden they will look CLEANER than they did before, and it’s, like, obvious they didn’t slop enough fake dirt on the actors. “Oh, now you look a lot better than you did, and you should look worse!”
Me: Yeah, I know what you mean.
LS: I mean, I almost like it, because I don’t really want to be looking at a bunch of dirty, sweaty, whatever, but it’s just like c’mon, they were dirtier than that five minutes ago! What, is there a shower on board the ship?
Me: I seriously doubt that. Somehow I doubt that.
I still felt like Jyn didn’t have a whole lot of personality, even though she did have some backstory.
LS: Yeah, I think I definitely prefer Rey as a character, because this is how I think of it: you can see what Rey is thinking more often. It’s in her eyes. Felicity Jones is a great actor, and I think she did a good job, but with this character… you get this feeling of, “I’m just broken. I’ve been through a lot, and I’m just like, I don’t care any more, basically. [Or] I care but I’m not gonna show you as much.” And Rey, she’s got more of a core of steel to her, and you can feel that. She’s younger, but she’s stronger.
Me: Yeah, there are more layers to her as a character, as you say. And with Jyn, you feel like all the emotion, or a lot of it, has been kind of beaten out of her by life. Now, she does have a couple really vulnerable moments in the film. For example, when she sees the hologram of her father, and she really breaks down, that was a good moment.
LS: It was, absolutely, but I feel like we could have had more leading up to that, rather than just, “Yep, yep, this is me, blank face, there’s nothing here.”
Me: “This is me blank-faced and all of a sudden I’m crying.” Yeah. Her character arc sort of lurched from one moment to the next.
Now, Saw Guerrera was kind of an oddity in this movie… the way he was handled felt a little odd and kind of forced. For example, I didn’t understand how he turned on a dime, just in the conversation with Jyn, where he’s all paranoid, and he’s saying, “Did they send you to kill me?” and everything could be a trap, and I’m not believing anyone, and I don’t know who to trust…
LS: Just calm down. Calm down. You’ve known this kid for a long time, come on.
Me: Yeah, but then all of a sudden he’s like, “Oh, here, come I have something to show you.”
LS: You don’t do that. Basic Rules of Being Paranoid: You don’t suddenly trust the person.
Me: I know, and then he’s sending them away like, “Save the rebellion! Save the dream!”
LS: I know. Blah, blah.
Me: He must have gotten convinced pretty quickly, I guess.
LS: Because he watched the hologram, maybe?
Me: But no, he’d already seen the hologram, remember? He says “This is the message that your father sent.”
Me: And another thing too, okay, while we’re talking about plot holes: This pilot was sent with this message.
LS: (He gets a little annoying.)
Me: But I’m trying to figure out how much he knows. It seems like he didn’t know what was in the message when he brought it.
LS: Yeah, I guess they’re trying to show us that he can be trusted, basically, that he didn’t look at this.
Me: I suppose it’s also possible that Galen didn’t want him to know too much, because he didn’t want him to have anything to say if he got captured.
LS: That’s true. He had plenty of babbling to do when he got captured. That was quite annoying.
Me: Oh, of course. That was a little annoying.
LS: Very annoying.
Me: But the other thing too is that the whole plan, Cassian’s mission, is to assassinate Erso, but he ends up not. And so it’s like, Jyn is trying to tell them about this hologram message that she got, before she knows that they’re planning to assassinate him…
LS: But then she’s like, “Oh, you were sent to assassinate him!” And I almost understand that, but I also think that she should have realized what he tells her, like “Well, guess what? I didn’t, in case you hadn’t noticed. It wasn’t me.”
Me: I liked that scene, though. I thought that was very believable.
LS: It was handled very well.
Me: But what I didn’t get was how come they didn’t have the pilot vouch for Galen’s sincerity? Because the pilot pretty clearly knew, even if he didn’t know the specifics of what was in the message, he knew that Galen had sent him in good faith, to try to reach out to the rebellion. Now, I guess they still could have been like, “Well, but maybe Galen was lying to the pilot.”
LS: This pilot seems pretty gullible, so…
Me: Yeah, the pilot could just be a useful idiot, he could just have been a tool in this whole thing. So, even if the pilot was there vouching for Galen’s character, they might not have been willing to accept him. But the fact that they didn’t even show the pilot really talking at all or speaking up at the council, when it seems like he would be one of the people in the best position to know, seemed a little odd to me. His whole character seemed underused, in my opinion. Because there’s all this importance attached to him, right? It’s like, “The pilot, the pilot, the pilot this, the pilot that, we’ve just received word that a pilot…” It seems like there’s much more talking about him than him actually talking for himself, you know what I mean?
LS: I think maybe the idea is that he’s just, as a person, he’s really not the kind of person who steps up and says, “Yep, I’m important and here’s why.” Basically, he’s the person who’s like, “Uhhhhh, ummmmmm, uh, yeah, yeah, right! [babble babble] [annoying stuff]”
Me: Yeah, but I really wanted to know more about his connection with Galen, because he’s got a couple of lines that sort of imply Galen had a really big impact on him. But again, we never see that, we don’t have any understanding of that. So I think that character is an example of what could have been and how I was sort of left wanting.
Now, let’s talk about Cassian’s arc somewhat…
LS: He’s kind of cranky. That’s how I thought of him at the beginning. He’s just very like, “Yeah, whatever. Yep, yep, yep. Do this, do that. Be really grumpy.”
Me: Now, did you catch what happened in the very first scene with him? Because his informant comes and tells him about the pilot, the message and everything. And the guy’s got this broken arm, and they’re kind of trapped down in this… I wasn’t quite sure, but they were in a city…
LS: Oh, he grabs the guy’s arm, right?
Me: Well, no, it’s more than that. The Stormtroopers are milling around, and they kill a couple of them and more are coming, and the guy’s going, “Oh, I’ll never be able to get out of here with my arm!” And so then Cassian just shoots him, he just kills him.
LS: HE was the one who… ohhhh!
Me: That was Cassian!
LS: I wondered for a minute there. He’s like, “Oh, you’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine.” I didn’t like the look on his face. I was like, “Did… what… did he just do what I think he did…??”
Me: I know. The very first time, I saw it, it went by so quickly…
LS: I know. I thought someone else shot him at first.
Me: It almost seemed like that, like someone else shoots him, but no, it’s Cassian.
LS: He’s got this kind of … nasty look.
Me: Yeah, he looks like he’s not up to any good. So right, he just coldly shoots the guy, because he knows the guy won’t be able to climb. So he shoots him and leaves him, and escapes himself.
LS: It’s like, excuse me? Are you good or are you bad? Or are you just… you’re ruthless! Come on! And I think that if that did happen, he sort of gets a little bit less nasty as it goes on, he becomes a little more like, “Okay, I can’t just be selfish all that time.”
Me: But I think that action right there, and also his entire mission to assassinate Galen, it really puts a different spin on the Rebel Alliance that I’m not sure I’m really comfortable with as a Star Wars fan.
LS: Yeah. They’re not just good, basically. They’ve got some kinda questionable people there.
Me: I want to read something to you that was written by Steven Greydanus, one of my favorite film critics. This particularly bothered him. He wrote, “In all previous Star Wars movies, one side wore black hats and the other white; it was always clear, not only which were the bad guys, but also which were the good guys.”
LS: Well technically, the Stormtroopers were dressed in white, but whatever. Continue.
Me: Ha! Good point, fair point. “In Rogue One, that’s not the case. For some, this is a selling-point. For me, it’s close to a deal-breaker.” What do you think?
LS: Well, I didn’t notice quite as much of that. I was just like, “Ooooh, this is cool!” I didn’t quite notice the little moments of cruelty, but now that I think about it, yeah, I’m not sure I like that very much.
Me: The closest that Cassian comes to (sort of) acknowledging his past is…
LS: “We’ve all done terrible things, but everything I did, I did for the rebellion.”
Me: Well right, exactly. It’s like, well, no, I think killing your informant, you didn’t exactly do that “for the rebellion.”
LS: You did it for yourself. Admit it!
Me: Although, I guess he could say, “Well, I was the only one who had the information, I had to escape and take it back, otherwise we both would be killed…”
LS: Yeah, let’s talk ethics here.
Me: Uh, yeah. I know. So really, in a way, it’s never really acknowledged…I dislike the deliberate muddying of the waters for our characters. I’m writing something about this, but I think this is of a piece with other Hollywood things. So, if you remember, the character of Faramir in the books Lord of the Rings is one of the purest good guys. He says he would never even be tempted by the ring. He’s good from the beginning. Now, in the movies, which I’ve seen but you haven’t, he initially captures the hobbits, and he’s not that good at first. He’s even tempted by the ring. So I feel like there’s this compulsive need in contemporary Hollywood to muddy its characters…
LS: Yeah, we’re all bad and dark anyway, we’re all fallen, so hey, let’s just go out of our way to show that to everyone!
Me: We can’t just have a character who’s just straightforwardly good, that’s not interesting anymore. We have to make him dark and complex and blah-blah-blah.
LS: I actually think it’s very interesting when someone is straightforward and good, because that’s so rare in the world around us. It’s an escape, people, okay?
Me: I think it shows a lack of imagination. I mean, I find Obi-Wan Kenobi a much more compelling character than Cassian, even though Obi-Wan Kenobi is consistently good.
LS: Yeah. And, Cassian’s cute, so y’know, whatever.
Me: What does that have to do with anything?
LS: I think there’s this notion that hey, you can get away with stuff with the audience a little more if you’re good-looking.
Me: Oh, I hadn’t thought about that… So yeah, this definitely bugs me the more I think about it. And as Greydanus put it, it’s not really my Star Wars anymore, you know? It’s not really the universe that Lucas initially had in mind.
Thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow!