PCP Against: The Force Awakens or Rogue One?

Bryan Mailloux - 3A Mechatronics
Posted on: January 14, 2017

It’s been just over a year since Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens premiered in theatres, and you can bet that, being the hardcore Star Wars fan that I am, I was there to watch it, along with thralls of others excited to see the next chapter of the Star Wars story revealed. And yet, I left that theatre feeling disappointed about the movie. Not that it was a bad movie at all; it just didn’t live up at all to the expectations I had of it.

Contrast that with Star Wars: Rogue One: as excited as I was to go see a new Star Wars movie, I knew virtually nothing about it as I sat down and the movie began, and considering how disappointing TFA was, I didn’t expect much from this movie either. And when Rogue One didn’t have the typical Star Wars opening crawl, that’s when I started thinking to myself, “I have a baaaad feeling about this…”. So, after expecting this movie to be the biggest let-down since The Phantom Menace, I was really surprised when Rogue One turned out to be a pretty sweet movie. And by pretty sweet, I mean really damn awesome.

So, what made The Force Awakens disappointing? My biggest problem with it was that it copy-pasted the plot from A New Hope, and plenty of things from the rest of the original Trilogy as well. It’s almost as if George Lucas handed J. J. Abrams the job of retconning the original Star Wars movies, and he took it so far that he accidentally made another movie out of it. What are you saying is the same, you may ask? Well, here goes: orphan kid from a desert planet who grows up getting the short end of the stick and ends up becoming the hero? Check. Bleeping cute droid? Check. An evil Empire with a Death Star, a right-hand man who converted to the Dark Side, and a creepy old guy running it? Check. A Rebellion who is hopelessly outclassed in manpower, training and weapons? Check. Mos Eisley Cantina? Check (I don’t even remember what that bar where Rey finds Anakin’s lightsaber is called, it’s still the Cantina to me). Daddy issues? Check. Falling from high places? Check. Stormtroopers who can’t hit the broad side of a barn? Check. Death Star trench run? Check. Only one surviving Jedi Master, located on a hidden planet, and who is waiting to teach the one who will bring balance to the Force? Check. In fact, the only characters who I couldn’t directly compare to characters in the Original Trilogy were Poe Dameron and Finn. Having the whole story of Episode IV repeat itself may have increased the nostalgic value of TFA, but I thought it only made the movie lose all possible suspense by repeating a story that has already been told.

The other issue I had with The Force Awakens was not being able to feel the struggle of the protagonists and of the Resistance. Poe Dameron practically dances around Imperial fighters in his X-Wing and takes out Starkiller Base with apparent ease. And if Rey can Jedi Mind Trick a Stormtrooper after getting exactly zero minutes of Jedi training, you really don’t feel like she’s in any danger at all. Rey may be a bad-ass, but where’s the excitement when there’s no one worthy to fight? I have mixed feelings about Kylo Ren’s powers and competence as well: though he stops a blaster bolt in mid-air, which was really damn cool, his portrait as an “emotional teenager” really didn’t do him any favours in this movie – he doesn’t come close to the pit of evil that is Darth Vader. (Though I’m looking forward to seeing him in action again, now that he has buried his past – or rather thrown it down a really tall shaft – and is fully committed to the Dark Side.) And finally, leaving Captain Phasma in the trash compactor? It might have been funny and nostalgically ironic, but also pretty much wrote the First Order off as total pushovers.

On the flip side, Rogue One did exactly the opposite of The Force Awakens, which made it a movie I would without a doubt watch over and over again. It has a completely different plot from the other movies, and felt about 0% copy-pasted from the plot of A New Hope, despite the fact that director Gareth Edwards used extra footage from ANH directly in Rogue One (if you rewatch the Battle of Scarif sequence, pay attention to Rebel pilots Red Leader and Gold Leader – they’re the same as they were in ANH). Having a story arc that doesn’t follow the Skywalker bloodline has the nice effect of reminding the audience that yes, there are other people in the galaxy, and yes, they were just as interesting.

And of course, not only did Rogue One feature a new plotline, but it happened to feature a great one. Being a movie that focused on the Rebellion as an organization, I think it did a great job of presenting just how ragtag of a group the Rebellion actually was, their problems in getting anything done as a coherent team, and the sacrifices they made to give Luke a chance of destroying the Death Star. That’s not really something you see in the other movies: of all the people who died for the Rebellion in the original trilogy, you don’t get to know them long enough to feel like their sacrifice meant something. In Rogue One, on the other hand, you truly feel the wrath and cruelty of the Empire as they not only annihilate all of Rogue One and their reinforcements with a single shot from the Death Star, but also all the Imperial troops who were stationed on Scarif as well. And that final scene with Darth Vader cutting down Rebel troopers as they escape with the Death Star Plans brings to light just how desperate the whole Rebel plan was.

So yeah, I’d take Rogue One over The Force Awakens any day – sounds like we need more standalone Star Wars movies like this one. Though when Episode VIII comes out you can bet I’ll be there to watch that too!