Captain Planet Meets Darth Vader
For aficionados of George Lucas’ Star Wars series of films, Rogue One is the long-awaited missing link between the several installments that preceded and post-ceded the original 1970’s Luke Skywalker film. In Rogue One we finally get to see the personal and political layout just before the original Star Wars film began. For loyal fans, anything short of a cheaply done installment will suffice. For newbies, curiosity may lead them to forgive the same. For the indifferent, given the hype surrounding the landmark film series, nothing less than a perfect production will do.
I’ll put it this way—Rogue One is as advanced and technically state-of-the-art as the limited story line can allow. Gritty and action-filled, the panoramic vistas of planets and their destruction at the hands of the lunar craft Death Star are stunning in their beauty and detail and alone worth the price of admission even if you cannot finagle a discount as I did. Unfortunately, however, there still remains no explanation of what the heck The Force actually is. Will-To-Power? Mushrooms? Hypnosis? Transcendental Meditation? A figment of Maharishi Yoda’s dream? Or of how the swarms of flying vehicles and spaceships actually manage to avoid the grip of gravity, Rogue One making only a casual reference to “hyperspace,” and none whatsoever to light-years, seemingly a rather important bit of information for those impressionable viewers who may conclude that porting from world to world is an easy matter or that flying through airless space creates sonic booms.
The story fails in other important ways. For instance, the robots aren’t cute and what they say isn’t funny. I never thought I would confess to missing cute robots in any story line, but in Rogue One’s gloomy atmosphere and darkened stage-sets, a brightly colored funny robot would have brought enormous relief from the movie’s dull plot. The characters are studiously constructed mass-market Hollywood stereotypes, devoid of interest or credibility, with as much depth as cellophane. The Bad Guys all have English accents while the Good Guys speak American, a device that was old when Kirk Douglas starred in Spartacus in 1960. Moreover, the Bad Guys are all white males, while the Good Guys have no white males at all, but are “Diverse” as only Hollywood comprehends the term, including a Mexican, an Arab, a South Pacific Islander, an American black guy, and Jyn, the unavoidable, ever-present, educated-to-near-genius-level despite being raised as an orphan young woman with a sword, a yawningly stock figure in Hollywood movies ever since the 1950’s and seemingly immune to reality updates.
The only white male among the Good Guys is Jyn’s father—who, predictably, falls immediately into the stock character reserved for white males in today’s politically correct Hollywood plots that suffer from blockbuster-itis: he is morally flawed as all white males are presumed to be and goes back to work for the Bad Guys, only belatedly realizing that he has compromised his integrity before finally undergoing a deathbed conversion back to Virtue after a tongue-lashing by his morally superior daughter Jyn, who—true to her profoundly uninteresting stick-action-figure character—lectures him (and the rest of the Good Guys) on how to be morally upright, her female character’s moral superiority to men being another de rigueur requirement of any sword-wielding woman in Hollywood’s endless belching of the latest “original” epic-of-the-year. The Diversity of the Good Guys, again utterly predictably, doesn’t include men giving orders to any woman, but on the contrary the men all take orders from a female Commander. Apparently in matriarchal Hollywood, Diversity only extends to appearance and identity, not to social organization, morality, or thought, which all prior centuries perceived were infinitely varied in custom and belief, but which this century alone crawls into Safe Spaces to avoid acknowledging.
There are more issues with the characters. Who could have guessed that Lucas would drag out of the dust-bin of tired plots a blind monk who sees better than any and kicks ass with a staff? Be still my flat-lining pulse. Who else than Hollywood would have the nerve to inflict such a hackneyed character on an innocent and trusting public? I could almost swear I heard the monk utter “grasshopper” several times. This blunder matches the black guy who sacrifices himself for the others, another characterization that was tired and cliched 50 years ago in Star Trek episodes, et al. A sacrificial black guy… Really? You’ve got to be kidding me. Forest Whitaker’s excellent performance cannot save the doom that Lucas lowered on his role like a politicized IRS audit.
Some elements of the movie are simply disturbing in what they suggest about today’s Hollywood mentality. The Imperial Storm troopers patrol a desert kingdom called Jeda, which reminds of the City of Jedda in Saudi Arabia (did some Saudi billionaire help finance the movie, and that was part of the deal?), and reminds of American troops patrolling Iraqi and Afghan cities, complete with tanks and air strikes. The heroic Rebels, on the other hand, dress and act like Taliban and other Muslim terrorists, suggesting a thinly veiled condemnation of American Middle Eastern policy, and the current peculiar alliance of Hollywood with Muslim terrorism, clothing the latter in trendy Hollywood myopic Progressivism.
The splicing in of clips of the late Peter Cushing overlaid with CGI is also disturbing. His digital transformation should be an alert to everyone of the imminent possibility of political figures being subjected to “fake news” of highly publicized misconduct that never in fact occurred. Are we about to witness the media breathlessly airing “breaking news” of video clips of a President assassinating someone in broad daylight while the real President is actually sitting in his office? This is what the Cushing clips in Rogue One portend. Perhaps we are not quite there—the final clip of Princess Leia is not in the least believable but shouts uncanny valley.
Last item is the subliminal symbolism in Rogue One. The Rebels sport red, the color of life. The leaders of both sides are black where Power matters, but the Storm Troopers are white—the color of death. Jyn taking refuge in a cave establishes her as an Earth Goddess, while Darth Vader, coming from the stars, in fact inhabiting a fake one (the Death Star), is the eponymous male Sky God, by its association with Industrialism pure evil. The Rebels’ home planet has pre-Columbian temples solidly attached to earth, signaling their identification with the Planet, the religion of Environmentalism, and Faith, while standing in opposition to the faithless Scientism of the Death Star and its faceless occupants who represent male-oriented Industrialism Gone Wild.
Devoid of suspense and originality, Rogue One is in the end merely a rerun of a Captain Planet cartoon, with an unlikely Jyn as the Captain. Fine for fans and techno-voyeurs, but tedious in the extreme for anyone hoping for mature fare. —Glenn Lazar Roberts for SiriusReviews.com.