Star Wars Rogue One: An Old Fan’s Perspective

(SPOILER ALERTS)

Like thousands of other sci-fi fans, I saw Rogue One during my holiday break. Unlike them, I actually didn’t want to see it. Only the recommendations of family members encouraged me to grudgingly give in to spousal pressures. I’m an old-school Luke and Leia fan. I hated the fact that Disney now owns the franchise. In my humble opinion, Disney underthinks and generally screws up most great stories. Hercules in particular had me screaming at the TV within moments.

In truth, Star Wars, The Force Awakens lived down to my expectations and beyond. It felt like a retread (or plagiarism) of most of the old ideas. Loner on desert planet finds robot who needs a friend…. The hero (heroine in this case) discovers the Force and goes on to rise to a savior type, at least locally. Kind of makes you wonder what it is about desert planets that makes Force-enhanced superheroes. Seems to me that the Empire should point their death star at those places.

However, Rogue One was completely different from The Force Awakens. It was original, gritty, and a bit of a downer, which is okay. War is a downer and this film showed that sometimes heroes do their job but still don’t survive.Image result

The main character, Jyn Eros (played by a sullen Felicity Jones) is not really likeable. She doesn’t try to be. Nor is she particularly beautiful or graceful, quite unlike many of the Star Wars women. She simply glowers and kicks ass. Definitely a woman I can relate to.

The male lead, Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) is handsome enough but he is also a rough a-hole who later cares for Jyn without the plot falling into silly lines or an icky, predictable romance, i.e., he is not a Han Solo retread.

The new robot K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk of Firefly fame) is snarky and imposing rather than cute and chatty. No one feels the need to adopt this one like a stray puppy. K-2SO is formidable and certainly less silly looking than the robot soldiers in Attack of the Clones. He’s deadly accurate with his shots, making me cringe at the anti-Asimov behavior.

I can’t say it was a good action story like the 1977 original movie. The two don’t really compare. However, the plot was extremely well done, featuring a number of cameos from that first trilogy nicely CGI-ed in for us fans. It also answered the question of “why would the Death Star have such a relatively easily accessible destruction point?” This film was clearly written by someone deeply immersed and in love with the Star Wars universe.

Hopefully we will see more of this quality in the future.

 

Introspection on The Hateful Eight

One of the things that I teach my English composition class is that someone wrote pretty much everything in the media, including all movies, advertisements, and newscasts. That’s why great writing is so important. This is certainly true for movies. Although the medium is moving pictures, we can still learn so many lessons about plot, audience, character development, and more by watching truly great and sometimes really horrible films.

For instance, let’s examine The Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino. It is an amazing story to see once but, like many of his films, you have to enter the theater with an iron stomach and a numbing reaction to vulgarity and racial slurs, however historically accurate. I’m not saying I’m a Tarantino fan, although I’ve seen most of his movies. True fandom for me is whether I buy the Blu-ray or not, and I don’t own any of his collection. I appreciate the man’s artistry in cinematography but am often put off by the gore and profane (in multiple ways) nature of his films.

The Hateful Eight was just what the title implies. Eight people huddle together in a cabin in the middle of a snowstorm. Several of them had post-Civil War axes to grind, usually in the other fellow’s head, and some simply wanted to kill people. The actors, especially Samuel Jackson, were fabulously horrible and the plot proved as entertaining as gladiatorial combat. You knew someone was going to die. You were just placing your bets on who.

What I took away from the film was a realization that the characters were embodied emotions, cunningly pitted against each other. Jackson’s Major Warren was contained rage, Russell’s bounty hunter embodied paranoia, Leigh, the prisoner-spite, Parks’ O.B.-loyalty, and so on. Even the bit part of the female stagecoach driver, Six-Horse Judy, was pure bouncy happiness. The writer took a large dose of negative emotions, sprinkled a few positive ones in and stirred it long enough for the explosive conclusion. Artful.

So imagine the characters in your work. Is there one emotion that you can ascribe to them? Of course, literary characters are never just one passion. They should be complex and changing, giving us a rainbow of reactions. Yet, what if you could place one dominant feeling or even philosophy on your character, what would it be?

Is it the emotion you want them to have? If not, then you probably need to back up a bit in the story and examine their motivation. What drives your character into action? Is it powerful enough? Remember that the people in great stories are not nice, normal, everyday folks. They are larger than life with greater problems and deeper emotional relationships. For that, you have to dig deeper inside yourself and be prepared to push boundaries, both yours and your character’s

As ever, happy writing!