‘Rogue One’ gives me a new hope

Updated below (on Thursday, January 5, 2017)

Right about now we all could use a new “Star Wars” movie that doesn’t suck. “Rogue One’s” diverse cast of heroic characters (see the movie’s publicity image below) has the white supremacists in a frothy lather, which is yet another good reason to see it.

Image result for Rogue One cast

With Darth Donald furiously filling his administration with hell’s best and brightest — and our only hope rebel electors who halt the construction of the Death Star and thus save the republic when they meet in the state capitals on Monday — it’s great that we have a new “Star Wars” movie to look to.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the first live-action “Star Wars” film that isn’t part of the ongoing nine-film series (which has hits and misses), opens on Friday, and it looks like it’s going to be a worthy “Star Wars” movie, unlike last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

I like that “Force Awakens” features a heroine instead of a hero (British actress Daisy Ridley as Rey did a great job), and that it is somewhat diverse, with black British actor John Boyega as rebel stormtrooper Finn and Latino Oscar Isaac as rebel pilot Poe Dameron. (Boyega and Isaac also did a great job, and, like many, many others, I’ve always had something for Isaac…)

But “Force Awakens,” although acted well enough and technically sound, of course, given its big budget, suffers significantly from being a brazen rehash of the “Star Wars” movies that came before it, replete with a third Death Star (well, OK, it’s a weaponized planet, but in essence it’s a third Death Star), another climactic light-saber duel, and, of course, the climactic destruction of that third Death Star.

“Force Awakens” also features a geriatric Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford as a geriatric Princess Leia and Han Solo, which didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy sense of nostalgia as much as it gave me the sense that the fucking baby boomers just won’t get off of the stage, no matter how long it has been since they wore out their welcome. (At least Han Solo dies in the movie…)

Perhaps most sinfully, “Force Awakens'” “villain,” Darth Vader descendant Kylo Ren (the son of Han Solo and Leia, he is played by Adam Driver), isn’t actually bad-ass at all, but is a whiny little bitch (much like Darth Donald). And that Kylo Ren is just a bad Darth Vader knock-off only emphasizes the fact that “Force Awakens” is just a bad “Star Wars” knock-off…

Oh, sure, it’s great to watch Rey kick Kylo Ren’s ass, but the whole fucking premise that Leia and Han Solo had a son who grew up to try to emulate Granddad Vader is just stupid. As is that third Death Star.

“Rogue One,” though, looks promising. It’s a more immediate prequel to 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope”* than was 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” which is the best of the first-three-numbered “Star Wars” episodes of 1999, 2002 and 2005 that were made after the first three released “Star Wars” episodes of 1977, 1980 and 1983. (Indeed, “Sith” is the only of those three proactive episodes worth watching, really.)

We already pretty much know the plot of “Rogue One”: Rebels to the Empire manage to steal the (first) Death Star plans so that the rebels then can destroy it. But while that back story was mentioned** in “A New Hope,” it never was fleshed out (recall that “A New Hope” begins with Princess Leia safeguarding the Death Star plans with the [an]droid R2-D2, who/which then jettisons in an escape pod with sidekick C-3PO), and very apparently “Rogue One” fleshes out that back story.

That “Rogue One” takes on fresher (albeit pre-established) material rather than simply rehashing old material, as “Force Awakens” did, is a big draw to me, as is the fact that I was a “Star Wars” fan at nine or 10 years old, replete with action figures and plastic toy replicas of the vehicles. (The fact that my mother cavalierly bought me a regular TIE fighter instead of the Darth Vader TIE fighter that I’d very specifically and repeatedly requested for one Christmas [a true story, unfortunately] probably contributed to the person that I am today [including my being fairly used to deep disappointment].)

While I grew up as a “Star Wars” fan — not only was finally seeing the very first “Star Wars” film a major event for me (I was taken to see it by an uncle who felt pity for my brother and me that our lazy, selfish, baby-boomer parents had yet to take us to it [another unfortunately true story]), but “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” also were big events for me, even though “Jedi,” with its second Death Star (and its inevitable destruction), largely is a rehash of “New Hope,” just with a bigger budget and on a larger scale — I still expect a new “Star Wars” movie to bring fresh elements to the table, and “Rogue One” appears to do that.

And I didn’t need another reason to see “Rogue One,” but the fact that the Trump-loving white supremacists/neo-Nazis are boycotting “Rogue One” because it’s just too damned diverse (and thus apparently is anti-white, you see) is yet another significant reason for me to see it.

You would think that these “alt-right” losers would have boycotted “Force Awakens,” because in it, the heroine Rey kicks the ass of the bad-ass wannabe Kylo Ren, who reminds me a lot of the neo-Nazis: He very much wants to be a bad-ass, and is trying to mimic an actual bad-ass who came before him, but he’s just a pathetic, petty terrorist; oh, sure, he can cause plenty of harm to others, but at heart, he’s a weak fucking coward — who gets his sorry ass kicked by a girl.

I love it that as with “Force Awakens,” “Rogue One’s” main hero is a heroine, Jyn Erso (played by British actress Felicity Jones), a rebel who apparently is aided in her cause against the Empire by fellow rebels played by Mexican actor Diego Luna, black American actor Forest Whitaker, Chinese actor Donnie Yen, and Riz Ahmed, who is a Brit of Pakistani heritage.

I’ve enjoyed the work of Luna, Whitaker, Yen and the adorable, doe-eyed Ahmed, and I’m happy to be able to see all of them in one movie.

And that ass-kicking droid in “Rogue One” (named K-2SO, apparently an Imperial droid that/who is droidnapped and reprogrammed to work for the rebels) strikes me as pretty fucking cool — like a C-3PO who/that finally grew a pair.

Movies do a lot of things. They are escapism, for sure, and right about now we Americans — and those who live in nations that are affected by what we Americans allow our government actors to do (and what we don’t allow them to do) — sure could use some escapism.

But movies also are a deep part of American and global culture, and it’s not a one-way street; movies not only reflect the culture at large, but they help to shape the culture.

Even the dimwitted, cowardly members of the “alt-right” and other neo-Nazis know this, and that’s why they hate to see images of racial and gender equality in our mainstream movies; they want only straight, white, conservative men to be the sole heroes in our movies in perpetuity.

But “Star Wars” has been, at least in its own way, subversive from Day One. Even in 1977’s retroactively titled “A New Hope,” it’s clear that the evil Empire, with its legions of stormtroopers and military hierarchy and massive weaponry, is much like the short-lived Nazi German empire.

And “Star Wars'” heroes have not been its villains (although no doubt many have fetishized its villains to the point of not really even viewing them as villains); “Star Wars'” heroes always have been the little guys and gals who have stood up to the big, fascist bullies against all odds.

“Star Wars” has been anti-neo-Nazi since its birth in 1977; the mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, neo-Nazi mega-losers of today boycott it way too late.

And I’m incredibly fine, when I go to see “Rogue One” — taking a break from the news of the stunningly awful team that is being assembled in Washington, D.C., to “make America great again” by bringing it to the brink of its destruction — knowing that at least there shouldn’t be any neo-Nazis in the theater with me because of their pissy little boycott.

Update (Thursday, January 5, 2017): I finally saw “Rogue One” in IMAX on Monday.

While not a perfect movie, it probably is the best “Star Wars” movie to be released since “The Empire Strikes Back.” It certainly has the look and the feel of the 1977 “Star Wars.”

Like every “Star Wars” movie, “Rogue One” has some characters (humans and non-humans) that are rather dumb, to be frank, but in “Rogue One” the strong characters thankfully cancel out the others. Droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) steals the show as a C-3PO with balls, and Felicity Jones as reluctant Rebel Jyn Erso and Diego Luna as Rebel leader Cassian Andor are a strong heroine and hero team.

Riz Ahmed seems underused as Imperial turncoat Bodhi Rook, a character that is rather undeveloped, as are the characters of blind warrior Chirrut Imwe (who is reduced to babbling a mantra about the Force, which many viewers are going to find more tiresome and annoying than anything else), played by Donnie Yen, and radical Rebel offshoot Saw Gerrera, played by Forest Whitaker, whose importance seems diminished by a deficient back story.

The CGI of the long-dead Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin is rather obviously CGI, and it’s surprising how much of the CGI Peter Cushing is in “Rogue One.” I’ll leave aside the discussion as to whether or not we even should be resurrecting dead actors via CGI, and just say that the CGI in “Rogue One” is lacking. We’ve come a long way from the creepy CGI of “The Polar Express,” but in “Rogue One,” it’s not far enough.

For all of it flaws, again, “Rogue One” succeeds in bringing back the look and feel and spirit of the 1977 “Star Wars” without entirely rehashing old story lines, as “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens” did.

Yes, like “Revenge of the Sith,” “Rogue One” fleshes out events that already were alluded to in the earlier films, but still, it’s a masterful fleshing out.

And it’s rather exhilarating, in fact, if you are an old “Star Wars” fan like I am, to watch “Rogue One” take you right to where the 1977 “Star Wars” begins.

I give “Rogue One” at least an “A-“. It misses primarily in some lacking character development. And I still don’t know about that CGI.

“Rogue One” must be given points for its diverse cast — it’s so refreshing when the hero isn’t yet another straight white guy — and for its rather bold ending, which I’d talk about except that it would be a major spoiler to tell you the fate of the main characters.

*I was nine years old when that movie came out, and it wasn’t subtitled “A New Hope” until 1981, when the movie was re-released.

**The iconic opening crawl of “A New Hope” reads:

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…

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