My surprising dislike of Rogue One.
It takes me forever to get around to watching movies. Being a work-from-home dad keeps me out of the theater during the week, and my wife and I like to spend time with one another doing something other than staring at a huge screen for two hours. Plus, we’d have to hire a babysitter or find family with free time to watch our son, so watching movies when they’re released is a low priority for us. That said, I finally got around to watching Rogue One about two weeks ago. I went in wanting to like it, but I came away with a bad taste in my mouth.
I don’t think it’s a bad movie. In fact, I think it’s a very well-made and well-acted film. The story is tight, the pacing is exciting, the tension is palpable, and the payoff is satisfying if bittersweet and sad for the main characters. My dislike of Rogue One does not come from my perceived quality of the movie, because it’s very good. But for me, it was less of a Star Wars film and more of a war movie, and I do not enjoy war movies.
I grew up with classic Star Wars, and the conflict in those films was very simple. The rebels were good and the empire was bad. It was a clear conflict of good versus evil. There were no extremist rebels or sympathetic imperials making everything all grey and complicated. And the action in classic Star Wars, despite the occasional limb loss, was more fantastic than realistic. I grew up with the feeling I was watching a comic book, and it was accessible to everyone.
Rogue One was a war movie. There were extremist rebels, and the Rebellion showed its dark underbelly. The dead bodies of Storm Troopers went limply flying as fresh explosions erupted near their corpses. The action felt less like a popcorn-popping space adventure and more like a realistic display of a wartime conflict. Lots of people enjoyed this more mature depiction of the War in Star Wars, but it soured my enjoyment because it did it so well. For me, classic Star Wars was always pure escapist adventure where you could imagine yourself wielding a lightsaber as a Jedi, or a piloting an X-Wing against the evil empire head on. If I saw Rogue One as a young man, my Star Wars fantasy would be more akin to sacrifice and death than heroic adventure. But I can’t fault Rogue One for being the movie it wanted to be, and it did it very well. I just don’t enjoy war movies.
War movies scare the hell out of me. Horror movies are a blast for me, because I’m not worried about monsters crawling out of my closet or creatures from another dimension taking possession of my soul. War movies display human nature at its very worst and its most violent. War movies are depictions of conflicts that have actually happened in our history, and the horrors we have inflicted upon one another are more terrifying to me than any shapeshifting terror from beyond the stars.
Classic Star Wars introduced me to a galaxy I wanted to escape to. Rogue One showed me a galaxy I wanted to escape from.
(I realize this is a funny blog post coming from someone who just spent the better part of a year writing a realistic(ish) war story in his webcomic that is otherwise known for its escapist adventure.)