The latest installment in the nearly 4 decades old Star Wars franchise, Rogue One, released last week and it has been generating a lot of very specific buzz. It is no secret that often times the franchise overall is seen as a sausage fest, i.e., just a collection of dudes doing some things while the women are relegated to the sidelines. And such a criticism is justified because while there are countless secondary media where the roles of women in Star Wars have been magnified and given center-stage, the movies have made no progressive decisions outside of the norm.
Today, while on Facebook, I came across a post from a female friend who saw the movie and was put off by the dismal representation of women in Rogue One. I cannot blame her for that. Despite having a strong female lead in Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, she really is the only woman who is doing anything significant. The post has generated a lot of feedback from both sides of the aisle on representation in the movie in specific and in Hollywood at large, and I wanted to take a different tactic here, talking about how what we did get was still a bold move, and why it all matters moving forward.
Note: There are some spoilers from Rogue One here so if you wish to avoid those spoilers, please do not read the article. If you want to read my (spoiler) review of the movie, you can read it here.
In recent years, my relationship with the Star Wars franchise in its entirety has been in flux. Whether it be the disappointments of Episode VII: The Force Awakens or some of the recent novels like A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller or Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, I haven’t been enamoured of the franchise at all. There have been stand-outs such as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith and James Luceno’s Tarkin, but there haven’t been many. And I won’t even get into the new comics from Marvel since most of them are retreading the area already covered extensively under Dark Horse and I don’t have much interest in them. However, when Rogue One was announced as a stand-alone movie in the franchise, and a prequel to the original Star Wars no less, I was excited because it was going to focus on almost entirely new characters and present us with something that we hadn’t really seen before on such a major platform.
Cue this past Thursday when the movie finally released. The trailers had built up a lot of hype for me, who was desperately looking for something to cheer for after the failings of The Force Awakens. Yes, the story would go over some material from Dark Horse and what some of the earlier video games had covered, but it was still mostly uncharted territory. Additionally, the period of the Galactic Empire’s dominance of the galaxy is one of the most fascinating periods in Star Wars lore, and I was totally ready for this movie. It looked to have a really awesome cast with some great promised cameos and I was all-in. And you know what, the movie didn’t disappoint. It was almost everything that I wanted from The Force Awakens but never got, and then some.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers from the movie, especially the ending, so read at your own risk.
Starting in the early Spring of 2012 with The Hunger Games, we’ve seen a new sensation in Hollywood, the adaptation of post-apocalyptic dystopian YA fiction, or thereabouts. It is the same kind of wave that happened in the wake of the incredible success of the Twilight movie adaptations, and as then, many such movies have come and gone with little in the way of any significant success. The Hunger Games made a star of its lead Jennifer Lawrence and the entire crew came back last year with Catching Fire, the sequel that really turned some heads and while it revisited some of the same concepts as its predecessor, the movie also promised a whole lot more, especially a war with the Capitol and President Snow.
This year’s Mockingjay Part 1 is the penultimate movie in the franchise. In a departure from the previous movies, it is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, though the adaptation is split into two movies, a decision I’m perfectly fine with, given the quality of the franchise. In this movie, we see how the rebellion against the Capitol really takes off as Katniss and the heretofore missing District 13 come together to oppose President Snow and the people of the Capitol and wage a war of intense propaganda. And in the middle of it all, the characters remain the focus as ever and we see some truly great scenes as the writers and the director explore what it is to live in this particular world, from both sides.