First off, spoiler alert and disclaimer: I’ll be talking about the movie Rogue One and I’m a Trekkie, not a Star Wars fan. I was invited to see this along with fellow PREP organizer Joshua Greene, who is taking point to form an official Texas Progressive Caucus. I’ve seen both the original trilogy and the prequel one, and I have to agree with Joshua that Rogue One was better than the prequel trilogy.
It starts off with zero crawling text exposition, unusual for a Star Wars film. You’re thrown head-first into the opening scene like it’s a car crash, and you can’t look away. We find out who designed the “Death Star” (also called a ‘great and terrible weapon’ by those who don’t know the full details of it yet) and that he isn’t Empire or Rebellion-aligned. Galen Erso just wants to be left alone. However, as fate would have it, the evil Empire of fascists snatch him up, kill his wife, and threaten his daughter in order to force him to work, though she runs and hides.
The film fast forwards to when the little girl, Jyn Erso, is an adult and a prisoner. She gets rescued by a Rebel faction (definitely not the type of white-hats that we are used to with Luke Skywalker), who are looking for information about the weapon that Galen is working on and know that Jyn is hiding under an assumed name.
Meanwhile, Captain Cassian Andor brings in the brutal efficiency and layers of grey morality as he calmly shoots his informant in the back rather than let him get captured by Stormtroopers. It was a cold, logical decision that even Spock would have made in order to protect the mission. The info from the informant is that a defecting Imperial pilot (Bodhi Rook) has a message for the anti-Imperialist radical Saw Gerrera. The message was from Galen, addressed specifically for Jyn (Saw apparently raised her after Director Orson Krennic press-ganged Galen into coming back to finish the Death Star). As I didn’t know the history of this, I was impressed to see that the Rebellion wasn’t unified behind Senator Mon Mothma, who is simultaneously trying to oppose the Emperor Palpatine from within the Empire and lead the nascent militant faction of freedom fighters.
Where it gets good for me is seeing the parallels between this movie and the current political climate we’re facing. We have an aspiring fascist about to take over and a loyal opposition party that’s flailing to figure out their next move and how to stop the ruling party. As the Rebels have distanced themselves from Saw Gerrera and claimed he’s essentially a terrorist, you’d think that Mothma is the white-hat. Instead, once capturing and talking to Jyn and finding out about the message (the Death Star will have a massive weakness built into it), Mothma orders Jyn to rescue Galen, but Cassian’s orders are to execute Galen on sight.
In the end, Galen dies due to the chaos of war as Rebels come in and attack the base he’s at, his dying words of love and support to Jyn. (I rolled my eyes at the stereotypical death scene, glad to see more realistic death scenes later on where all you get is a brief second to see a grenade at your feet and no time to say your goodbyes.)
After Galen’s death is reported to Mothma, Jyn is told that the Rebels need physical proof of the Death Star to present to the Senate in order to try and stop or oust Palpatine. Even though Galen’s dying words told Jyn that the plans are on Scarif, a highly secured planet, the Senator says that the risk is too great and that suggests that perhaps surrender is the safer option.
By this time, we’ve already seen the first Death Star do a test-firing to destroy Jedha City (killing Saw Gerrera), so we realize that the Senator’s ‘maybe they will work with us’ diplomacy won’t work and that refusing to let the Rebel fleet go on the mission is a slow suicide for everyone who isn’t cowering in fear of the Emperor. Here’s where I couldn’t help but compare this to the Bernie vs Hillary factions of the Democratic Party trying to figure out how to fight the Republicans.
We’ve got someone who is relatively unknown with a plan who just needs support to enact it, versus someone who is established in arenas of power who refuses the risky option and instead attempts to challenge the True Evil through bureaucratic channels, which Palpatine has already seized and had the rules rewritten to consolidate permanent power because he is a fascist.
Naturally, Jyn initiates her own mission by stealing an already-stolen Empire transport vessel with a group of rebellious rebels (who disagree with the ‘maybe surrender is an option’ Senator-leader). Once Mothma realizes that even one of her generals broke ranks to join in defending Jyn’s mission, she does order the Rebels to Scarif and there’s a space battle to envy what Babylon 5 was able to do in the ’90s.
Scarif is heavily shielded and impossible to break into, hence the need for guile as Jyn and Bodhi take the transport vessel to the ground and sneak in, with the help of force-sensitive Chirrut, giant-gun Baze, and reprogrammed robot K-2SO. (I’m also now convinced that Chirrut and Baze were a couple because that was more subtle romance than just Bro-mance.)
The members of Rogue One always knew that this might be a suicide mission, and it turns out to be. But the mission was indeed successful in the end, as the plans for the Death Star escape the best Darth-Vader-slaughterfest-in-a-cramped-hallway-with-a-malfunctioning-door scene ever filmed.
Rogue One was about Completing the Mission to stop True Evil and to do whatever it took to succeed. There was no room for ego to get in the way nor would surrender ever work.
If we want to defeat the evil fascist Trump who has promised to commit war crimes, stifle dissent, and shut down the press… we have to work together rather than infight or sit back while others go at the mission alone.