Monday, 19 December 2016

Rogue One

This commentary is about Rogue One.

But before I get into that, it needs to be said that I was disappointed with the Force Awakens. I know there are differing views, even legions of people out there who thought Episode VII brought back the spirit of the original trilogy. So let me first express that this is my view, my feeling about how the Star Wars universe has evolved, having been a fan of Star Wars for about 40 years now.

I watched the original trilogy. I read the novels. I watched the prequel trilogy. I read more novels related to the prequel trilogy. I know a lot of materials are non-canonical, but they were the only available source that connected us to the Skywalkers/Solos era and a lot of fans grew up on those. Luke Skywalker grew from farmboy to being the sole Jedi in the galaxy. And then he went on to start a Jedi Academy, and fought off a series of villains. Along the way, Skywalkers and Solo had children, and then there were stories about their children. The galaxy faced and defeated an alien invasion.

Therefore, to start with the new trilogy where the original heroes are just a sad shadow of their former glories is heart breaking. Against Leia's (supposed to be the stronger of the twins) better judgment, she send Solo to his death. Solo, being the survivalist, and against his better judgment, decided to take the chance of being killed by his son. Luke, being totally out of character, the friend-saviour that he is, decided to abandon everything and everyone and go into hiding. There is just no cohesion to who they were. Disney, JJ Abrams, could have done any number of things:

1) reboot with a new cast with reference to their lineage/heritage without showing up the old folks - they could have become glorious footnotes that can be brought back through cutting edge CGI like what Rogue One has done with Grand Moff Tarkin (and to a lesser extent Princess Leia). Instead of 30 years post Return of the Jedi, why not 50 and have a clean slate?

2) Solo could have saved a few planets on his way out ala Bruce Willis' final act of heroism in Armageddon - at least he made that sacrifice knowingly. The way he went out was pathetic.

3) Created a Kylo Ren that is truly a monster. The one we saw on the screen seemed bad ass at the beginning, stopping a bolt of laser, but deteriorated into a tantrum throwing oversized teenager, and in the end, an evil but very beaten villain - I couldn't even remember the character's name few months after watching the movie.

4) There are many dangerous weapons out there in the universe, why must it be another recycled doomsday weapon of epic proportions? Star Wars is supposed to be an old galaxy where technological innovation and invention has plateaued. What's the value of up-scaling the Death Star to a planet? What's the value of sucking energy off a star? That's the danger of JJ Abrams. He does not have original ideas, he just ramps up and makes bigger the original idea to the extent they become disbelievable even in the realm of fiction.  Just look at how Star Trek reboot started. A graduate off Starfleet Academy commanding the Federation's flagship vessel? It's abuse of creative licence.

I'd like Disney and JJ Abrams to explain away these inconsistencies and incoherence. There has been some news how there is a fall out between Lucas and Disney. If it is about the plot and the concept, I stand by him. Lucas was an uninspired story teller in the prequel trilogy, but I think that he focused more on coherence of HIS universe. So I could relate to the prequels even though I didn't like the story telling. And I suppose when the story is then told by someone else, in some other medium, they became successful - like the Clone War tv series. In ignoring the novels that came before it, Disney destroys the whole coherence continuum that so many people have painstakingly adhered to. It is heartless and totally unnecessary. It is also puzzling how Star Wars Rebels introduce Grand Admiral Thrawn, but Timothy Zahn's series is not recognised. Or is it the case that Timothy Zahn's series is recognised, but the rest are not?  If Timothy Zahn's series is recognised, then too must be the twins that Han and Leia had. What happened to them by the time of the Force Awakens? What's the basis of selection then? Or is it that the animations are also not canon?

Star Wars is a culture and Disney is just its paid guardian. It needs to be treated with respect and fans deserve answers to all these questions. I guess I am passionate about this because I used the concept of incrementalism in Star Wars to explain how judges make decisions under common law system during the year when I read jurisprudence many years ago. Without following incrementalism, it is a betrayal of the Star Wars culture.

So in the end, the Force Awakens failed me. Which is where Rogue One came in. It restored my faith a little in the Star Wars grand saga. Say what people may about whether it is even a necessary movie, or why everyone had to die, or that at some parts the music is just jarring, but I loved it. Here are the 3 reasons:

1) Every key character died, as it should be.

2) They finally plugged a gapping "coherence" hole about how after the Empire has invested enormous resources, over a period of more than 20 years, to build a space station (or as it turns out, more than one), that they left it vulnerable to torpedo attack by a single star fighter. It is finally explained that the flaw is there by design, and the weakness isn't because of an uncovered or unshielded exhaust vent, but the reactor itself is vulnerable; thereby providing a brilliant solution to an age old issue.

3) There are not significant flaws which is a big welcome compared with Force Awakens, Phantom Menace, or a New Hope.

Gareth Edwards and Michael Giacchino should helm the other Star Wars movies and JJ Abrams shouldn't be involved anymore.

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