Rogue One:  Star Wars Episode 3.75

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” is every bit as good as the 7th installment of the Star Wars saga “The Force Awakens”. This is the first film set in the Star Wars universe that offers a deeper look at the story behind the story of the main saga. 

Specifically, we are given a rousing prequel to George Lucas’ 1977 original film “Episode IV – A New Hope.” (Which should be watched as soon as you get home from the theatre!)

The plot of “Rogue One” is driven by the fact that the evil Empire — served, most prominently, by Grand Moff Tarkin (a CGI of the late Peter Cushing) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) — is on the verge of deploying the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the Death Star.

The Death Star has the potential to wipe out entire planets and thus doom the efforts of the Rebel Alliance to resist subjugation by the Empire. 

The movie’s main character, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is drawn to the center stage because she is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the brilliant scientist who developed the technology behind the Death Star.  What we know that the Star Wars universe does  not is that he designed it under duress while being held captive. Jyn has reason to believe that the armament has been sabotaged by her father. 

To prove this, she enlists the help of Rebel Alliance officer Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his mechanical sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tidy). Kato is an amusingly straight-talking android, who provides most of the movie’s comic relief.

Director Gareth Edwards has crafted an exciting epic while keeping the violence inherent in his story of armed conflict virtually bloodless. Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy have written a script that  celebrates altruism in the midst of the Rebellion. They also briefly tackle the morality of mindlessly obeying military orders.

“Rogue One” is old-fashioned entertainment in the best sense! We are treated to a showdown between spunky goodness and hisssble villainy with a bit of innocent romance thrown in to boot!  

This is a film for the whole family. Don’t miss it.

Addendum: The Force Of Star Wars

George Lucas is a fan of the writings of mythology scholar Joseph Campbell so not surprisingly ideas from world mythology are woven through the series. Episode IV itself is basically a reproduction of the archtypal story in Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Most of the mythic symbols Lucas weaves into the films may pass completely unnoticed except one: The Force.

According to the films, “the Force” is an energy field generated by all living beings that “binds the galaxy together.” For some gifted individuals, the Force provides both power and guidance.
The Force apparently is morally polarized, with a “light side” and a “dark side.” The light side (associated with good, peace, and self-defense) is the power of the Jedi, and the dark side (associated with evil, anger, and aggression) is the power of their enemies, the Sith.

What does George Lucas mean by The Force?   In interviews he has explained that the Force is a symbol for all that is unseen in the universe. The light side is essentially a symbol for God — the unseen Power of good — while the dark side is a symbol for the forces of evil.

According to Lucas, the Jedi exhortation to “Use the Force” essentially means “Make a leap of faith” (or “Trust God”). The phrase “May the Force be with you,” of course, is clearly evocative of “May God be with you.”

Lucas sees the Force (or the light side of the Force) then as only symbolic of God, not a direct allegory. Personally I see too many non-theistic elements to make the connection between God and the Force. 

I think the force bears a closer resemblance to a New-Age mystical energy field balanced between good and evil, similar to the yin-yang balance of Taoism than to God. (I do know The Force is fictional, but our fictional constructs are rooted in our perception of reality.) 

I love the Star Wars universe and when I see any of the movies I view “the Force” in essentially the same way I do the fantasy magic in The Wizard of Oz and similar stories. Let your children enjoy this fantasy universe and if they ask you if The Force is another name for God be prepared to give a reasonable “no” answer. 

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Raiders of the Ark: A Review of “Noah”

Let me get this off my chest – “Noah” is a blockbuster film which is in no way the straightforward biblical epic that its trailers would suggest. I am not referring so much to what is added to the story (which is a lot!) as to significant things left out of it. Like these two biggies:
Gone is a loving God who gives clear and direct revelation in order to save the human race; in His place is a distant, petty, and silent Creator.
Gone is a prophet who preaches repentance in a desperate attempt to save humanity; in his place is an environmentalist who wouldn’t hurt a fly but considers killing babies out of a belief that the human race doesn’t deserve to continue.

It seemed to me that at almost every turn, “Noah” took whatever the Bible account said and did the opposite.

“But what did you expect?” some may counter, “after all it is a theatrical release big budget movie.” Fair enough. Theology aside, “Noah” fails as entertainment due largely to its preachiness about the environment. While much of the acting is superb the film’s tone is all over the place. It simply can’t decide what it wants to be. Early on the film plays like a mythological fantasy a-la Lord of the Rings, with fallen angel rock monsters, snake-dogs, and wizard-like magic dominating the scene. It gradually morphs into an action film, then morphs again into disaster epic, before settling on psychological thriller by having the character of Noah become more Jack Nicholson in The Shining than righteous prophet . Some films skillfully straddle the line between genres. This isn’t one of them.

There were things I liked about “Noah”. It had striking visuals and the sets, wardrobe design, and cast are impressive. I was very impressed with the full size ark used as a set.

Theology aside “Noah” committed the cardinal sin of failing to make me care about its characters. Let me explain. Noah is a complex protagonist and his moral dilemmas were well-defined, but I couldn’t connect with him. It’s not Russell Crowe’s fault; he’s a phenomenal actor, one of my favorites, and he is a true profession who delivers exactly what the script calls for (I think I just identified my connection problem). To me the supporting characters are underwritten, underdeveloped, and mostly one-dimensional. Much of the dialogue is melodramatic and heavy-handed (the kind that often elicits unintentional laughter). I can sum up all of the antagonist Tubel-Cain’s dialogue in three phrases: “Kill monsters, kill Noah, take Ark”. The story is just too dark and disturbing for the few worthwhile moments to leave a lasting impression or for scenes of real impact to shine through.

The biblical story of Noah is a story of redemption, of the remnant being saved from destruction, as it is about the wrath of God. The film “Noah” does finally arrive at a redemptive message: mercy and love are as important as justice, and the human race deserves a second chance. Those are beautiful principles, ones worth crafting a story around.

But “Noah” got there too little, too late to redeem itself.