(WARNING: This is spoiler territory — activate your force fields!)
Last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens proved that generations of cinemagoers still love the galaxy far far away. The first movie to dive into the universe outside the episodes (cinematically) is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) has made a war film set in the universe we all know and love. Having a diverse cast, a strong female lead, with the gritty tone of Zero Dark Thirty — #RogueOne has set a high bar for the next installments of the anthology.
Rogue One was awesome, and it feels more like Steven Spielberg’s #SavingPrivateRyan than the standard #StarWars entry. Rogue One is the first movie meant for the older audience looking for a darker tone. As a fanatic of grittiness, Rogue One achieves it with astounding results. Rogue One has the greatest Star Wars ending since #TheEmpireStrikesback, and maybe even better. While The Empire Strikes Back has its perfect moments, Rogue One dives deeper into the philosophy of life and death, and why it’s OK to accept it.
Death Is Not What It Seems
The opening logo is tinted in gray over the usual green, yet it still glows. We know death is the essential theme from the get-go, and the glow ensures happiness. The bittersweet goodbyes of these newly beloved characters are what defines the theme of death. The film tells us that it’s OK to accept death, because it adds weight to the story. It also means that fulfilling a purpose has an end. Rogue One appreciates the meaning of death over its physical aspects, and it leaves us thinking beyond the trip to the theater.
Death is always a part of warfare, and it’s generally a consequence of bravery and sacrifice. But bravery and sacrifice are what makes death honorable — ask a samurai. Every single character died with meaning, and it told us more about their character than you think. Every Rogue One member died, but moments prior revealed their true nature. They all had heart and soul, and their deaths led to tears. Every character sacrificed themselves to help one another. It furthered their mission to steal the Death Star plans. One action led to another, and one cannot succeed without the other — they were a true team.
Life Talks Through Death
The death of the Rogue One team is a reflection of life. Their deaths not only showed their true nature, but also revealed how they lived. Jyn Erso was always meant to finish her father’s work and sabotage the Death Star. Galen Erso’s life was (as he claims) wasted since he became involved with the Empire. What he desired in life imprinted onto his daughter, and as we watch her journey to the end, it’s really the life of her father’s.
Chirrut’s walk to turn the master switch reflects how he chooses to live. He chants to himself, “The force is with me, and I am one with the force,” and it sums up his spiritual lifestyle. We learn that this warrior, in a time of tyranny and imbalance, lived with so much peace. As Chirrut dies, we say goodbye. Most importantly, Chirrut’s death encourages us to embrace how he lived. Even K-2SO's death was a pivotal moment. Since he is the comedic heart of the group, the robot's death symbolizes the reality of the end.
Rogue One is like the mission from Saving Private Ryan, where a group of US Soldiers are risking their necks to save a paratrooper because he’s the only survivor out of a handful of siblings. The mission is suicide, but the life it saves in return will carry on for the generations to come. The death of Rogue One will always be remembered because they practically inspired the stories that follow.
The closing scene shows Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor holding hands as the planet is being destroyed by the Death Star. The scene was very emotional. Their efforts in completing the mission earned the peaceful rest in front of the sunset. The ending to the story tells us it's OK to die. The story wasn't afraid to kill everyone we cared about, not for the sake of clearing it to connect the next chapter, but rather embrace how death can share the same qualities as hope.
A New Hope
Jyn Erso and her unlikely band of heroes are the most important figures in the galaxy because they are a product of the future. Rogue One are the true characters that inspired (no pun intended) a new hope. They are the unsung heroes of the stories we loved as children. As adults, we are told of a brand new story that started it all. The gritty tone and the group's swan song is the light of the universe that felt ready to be told.
Rogue One may be a bittersweet story with lots of death, but it’s the most hopeful of them. As the story unveils death as something positive, hope is what replaces it. That's why the death of the Rogue One team is so plausible.
Screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy created strong characters that were the most humanizing. They organically told a story that had pure resonance. We can do what the Rogue One squadron did in the film — well, if we are gutsy, and I'm sure we are. The moral of the story is that hope is nothing without the grandeur of humanity — and death gets a meaning.
That is what hope is — the humanizing nature of a story no matter where we are. A galaxy far far away really isn’t far away because we as the audience feel capable of delivering balance to the force. The story of Rogue One offers us a tangible feeling closest to home.
Hear director Gareth Edwards talk about how important the story of Rogue One was to him:
Click over to Movie Pilot video for more.