‘Star Wars: Rogue One’: Hope and perhaps a second chance

I was not a fan of The Force Awakens.  I still think it was a rip-off fan film and it wasn’t very good.  It’s obvious to me that Star Wars saw its best days under the control of George Lucas and that it will forever be in a declined state.  I was a tremendous fan of Star Wars because under Lucas they had established a nice storyline that embodied several video games, novels, comics and of course the movies themselves into on giant mythology—and that mythology had a conservative lean to it—rooted in Ayn Rand oriented individualism.  Now it is clear that when Lucasfilm under Kathy Kennedy released The Star Wars comic series about two years before the release of The Force Awakens that they were telegraphing what they were going to do with the many novels that had been written after The Return of the Jedi in 1983—they were going to rip them off and retell many of the stories because they thought they needed to be more Huffington Post oriented progressive stories instead of Ayn Ran.   In that comic series Lucasfilm took George Lucas’ original screenplay and turned into a comic to show how rough the story had been compared to what ended up on screen—as a ploy to justify what they were about to do to the Extended Universe.  Well, that’s all water under the bridge and Star Wars is forever ruined for me—because I had stayed with them through many years—and they let me down.  Now that I know that, I can at least appreciate what telling some of those old stories from the books to cinematic vision can do for a new generation desperate for some positive mythology and after seeing the trailer for the new Rogue One film by Garth Edwards, I am encouraged.  Lucasfilm might earn back a little respect with it because it looks nicely done.

The sad thing about that movie and premise is that it is essentially a retelling of the story of the video game Dark Forces and the name of the female lead is essentially a take on Kyle Katarn’s trusted ship captain.  Dark Forces was the first video game I ever played with my oldest daughter and it was a special story for us, and now Lucasfilm is going to screw that up too—but I think Edwards will do the story justice.  I suppose the sad thing for me is that there won’t be any new ideas coming out of Star Wars.  But the value of what has been told is important and to a new generation that is seeing some of this stuff for the first time—these movies are good for them.  This is consistent with the Disney Company that has taken stories told over time and put a modern take to them for their movies.  There is value in retelling a story, so to that extent I’m glad to see Star Wars doing what it’s doing.

It gives me hope that the future stand alone films featuring Han Solo and Boba Fett will be very good and dramatic—even though the topics have been covered in the novels of the past.  It is still fun to see these things put into a movie even if the story is better in the original novelizations.  Let’s face it, not many people read any more, so at least these stories will get told.   Rogue One, I would say will arguably in that case will be better than the original story of Dark Forces.  So if that’s what Disney is going to do, I suppose it’s better than nothing.  I see Star Wars as just another remake the way that Godzilla was recently retold with an updated spin on a classic story.  I am looking forward to Rogue One because it tips the hat toward the spirit of the original trilogy and I trust that director to do a good job.  It will be fun to visit that universe again by someone who obviously loved the original film as much as I did—if not more.

Still, I can’t help but think how special Star Wars could have been if they had stuck to the carefully planned books.  But Hollywood in general has lost its creative impulse—very few filmmakers these days have any imagination and those that do can’t get funded for their projects because backers are caught in a static pattern that is dangerous to their own industry.  All of Hollywood is stuck in this creative vacuum of copying off old books and comics to update stories for a more visual format.  I had the benefit of seeing Star Wars when everything was truly new and original and I wanted that freshness for this new generation.  But it can still be good.  Just not as good.

Since The Force Awakens I have been pretty staunchly anti-Star Wars.  My brother and kids have been a little sad that I can’t share my enthusiasm for it as I once did.  To me the death of Han Solo was essentially the death of Star Wars.  It will never mean the same to me, especially with the progressive direction that they are going.  I don’t care about the minority roles or the strong female characters—but the collectivism push is something I just can’t get into—stories where the individuals take a backseat for the collective benefit of everyone.  With Han Solo, everything was better, his selfishness epitomized Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy wonderfully.  It may have been unintentional by George Lucas, but it was very pro capitalist leaving A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back the best two movies likely to ever be made for the Star Wars saga.  It was exciting to see images of costumes, ships, sounds, and other elements of those two movies in the Rogue One preview—so I’m sure it will be enjoyable.  I may not enjoy it as much as I otherwise would, but Lucasfilm has a chance to win me back just a little.

To put things in perspective, since I was like 10 years old I bought every single video game that was ever released for Star Wars the first week it came out.  I loved every one of them, particularly the Dark Forces games, Force Unleashed, and Rebel Assault.  That lasted until essentially The Force Awakens.  I dropped Star Wars like a rock and pushed it out of my mind completely.  It was so bad that when we finally bought a Playstation 4, I had the option of buying one with the Star Wars: Battlefront option, or with the Call of Duty bundle—I picked Call of Duty.  I don’t want to play that game because I don’t want to play as a bad guy—because they force you to if you want to play online.  And I refuse to play any game that makes me shoot at the Millennium Falcon or Han Solo flying it.  So Battlefront is the first Star Wars video game that I haven’t bought.  I’ve even bought game systems to play specific Star Wars games.  I would love to play Battlefront as the rebellion.  But I have absolutely no interest in playing as the Empire.  To my mind, George Lucas was treading on shaking ground when he attempted to humanize the bad guys in his prequels.  But I thought there were good points to make, and I personally liked Obi-Wan enough to hang with Lucas through those stories.  But without a good guy to hang morality onto, Star Wars falls apart and becomes just another average story.

Fortunately, it looks like Garth Edwards understands what makes Star Wars good, so I am encouraged, and will likely see the new Star Wars film when it comes out in December.  I’ll give it a second chance to win my respect.  I think it was pathetic that The Force Awakens only made a bit over 2 billion dollars—it could have made more.  I’m sure Disney executives are happy, but they are obviously unaware of their short-sightedness.  So we’ll see.  We were so serious about Star Wars that my family had been planning to go to London this upcoming summer to attend the Star Wars Celebration there in 2016.  Those plans changed after Force Awakens quickly.  We’re not going.   It remains to be seen how good Rogue One turns out to be.  If it is respectful to Dark Forces, then I might be able to like it.  If it craps all over it, then that will likely be it for me.  My opinion is pending successful implementation.

Rich Hoffman

 CLIFFHANGER RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

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