Rogue One: a Star Wars story (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter One: A Long Time Ago In-Between Star Wars Trilogies…

darthvader

 

00:00:00 – 00:15:00

When I began the 15-Minute Force project, inspired by the Star Wars Minute podcast by Alex Robinson and Pete the Retailer, it was with this movie in mind. Rogue One has been sitting on my shelf since the day it was released on Blu-Ray. Unwatched. I didn’t see it in the movie theaters either. In short, I haven’t seen it yet.

The movie occupies a unique position in the Star Wars timeline, in-between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy. I felt like I needed to watch the prequels again before watching this one, and this project was a way to force me to do that, fifteen minutes at a time, while writing a synopsis along with whatever commentary I wished to add. I’ve enjoyed doing so, even if I didn’t enjoy the movies equally. I’m not a fan of The Phantom Menace, even though I liked Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul. I liked Attack of the Clones more than the first movie, and Revenge of the Sith remains my favorite of the prequel trilogy.

I’m not sure what I’ll think about the original trilogy since it’s been years since I’ve watched those movies. The Empire Strikes Back was always my favorite, followed closely by A New Hope, and Return of the Jedi trailing behind at a distant third, dragged down—in my opinion—by the Ewoks, among other things. Even with this ranking, I still think I liked Return more than Phantom, and the first two better than all of the prequels. Once I watch them all again, perhaps for the last time, I may post my ranking of all the Star Wars movies. At this moment, I think The Force Awakens would fall at #3 on the list, after Empire and New Hope.

I look forward to seeing where Rogue One and The Last Jedi end up, not to mention Solo and whatever comes next. As long as new Star Wars content is being produced, I’ll write about it here. Only not the Christmas Special. Alex and Pete may have been brave enough to tackle it, but I refuse.

And, now…without further preamble…

The Lucasfilm Ltd logo…then A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Anticipation builds, and I want to hear that familar brassy blare of the John Williams score. Instead, there is a musical sting of some sort and no opening crawl. I had already been warned that it was absent in this movie, but it still feels weird.

Instead of the crawl, we get a longshot from space of what appears to be an Earth-like planet in the far left of the frame. But this is quickly followed by a slow pan upwards that feels very much like Star Wars, and then a UPC barcode begins scrolling across the screen. Not even a full minute into the movie and I’m already confused.

It’s not a UPC, it’s the rings of a planet. Which means what I initially took for a planet may have been a moon instead. I’m not really sure where I am in the Star Wars universe.

One of those Imperial shuttles, like the ones Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader have been known to ride around in, zips across the screen and is heading down towards the planet. The shuttle zooms low over a seashore and then inland. We see droids working outside who turn to look at the craft. And then…

As the shuttle is drawing nearer, there’s a little girl running as if frightened by the sight. We see an interior shot of a couple, who we might assume are the girl’s parents, who have already seen the shuttle on security monitors. As the girl enters the living structure, the mother, Lyra, tells the girl that they already know. The father calls the girl Jyn and tells her to gather her things: It’s time.

While Jyn is packing, Lyra raises Forest Whitaker on a small wall-mounted television. She calls him “Saw.” She tells Saw that “he” has come for them.

“You know what to do,” Saw says.

The Imperial shuttle touches down on what appears to be black sand or very rich soil.

Galen, the father, tells his daughter Jyn that he wants her to know that what he does he’s doing to protect her. He makes her say that she understands. Then he says, “I love you, Stardust.” Aw…that’s sweet. His pet name for her is Stardust.

On the X-Files, Agent Scully’s dad called her “Starbuck.” That has absolutely nothing to do with this movie, and this will hardly be the last of my non sequiturs.

While Galen is hugging it out with his daughter, he looks at his wife and tells her to go. Then, he steps outside to meet his visitors, many of whom look similar to stormtroopers, only less bulky and with armor that is very dark, either in coloration or with dirt. Can’t tell at this point. Outside Galen’s home, I see structures that may be for moisture farming. He should make sure he keeps the mushrooms off of his vaporators. One of figures approaching doesn’t look like the others. It is wearing either a white robe or a cape of some kind.

Cut to, Lyra and Jyn. Lyra bends down to talk to her daughter. She asks if Jyn knows where to go, and the girl nods. Then Lyra places a necklace around her daughter’s neck and tells her to trust the Force. More hugging.

Then back on the approaching visitors. The man in the center is an Imperial officer, wearing a white tunic and a cape. I don’t know his name yet.

He tells Galen he’s a hard man to find. He also can’t believe that a man of Galen’s talents is spending his time as a farmer. Galen says it’s a peaceful life. Lonely, too, the Imperial dude says, obviously not convinced that Galen is there alone.

Galen says that his wife has died. Imperial dude makes mock-sympathetic noises and then orders his soldiers to search the house.

Galen asks what the man wants. The Imperial says that the work has stalled and he wants Galen to come back. Galen says, “I won’t do it, Krennic.” So, now we have a name. The Imperial officer is a man named Krennic. Galen claims that his memory isn’t what it once was, and Krennic says something to the effect that Galen is a better scientist than he is a liar.

While the two men are talking, Lyra comes running up, carrying something in her arms. Krennic says, “Oh. Look. There’s Lyra back from the dead. It’s a miracle.” His off-hand sarcasm is the best I’ve seen in the SWU.

Lyra pulls a handgun and tells Krennic that he’s not taking her husband. Krennic says he’s talking all of them.

“As hostages,” Lyra says.

“As heroes of the Empire,” Krennic counters. He then orders Lyra to lower her weapon. When she doesn’t, Krennic orders the stormtroopers to shoot her, which they do, but not before she can get off a shot that wings Krennic. Jyn has witnessed this entire exchange because she didn’t run and hide as her mother had ordered. No one is doing what they were told to do. Maybe that’s a theme.

Galen runs to his wife’s side. Krennic slowly rises and says, “They have a child. Find it!” Calling Jyn an “it” is a good touch. Is it the way Krennic dehumanizes her, or is it just that he doesn’t know whether she’s a girl or a boy?

While Galen is cradling his dead or dying wife, Jyn runs off. There is a disguised entrance to a bolt hole under a rock, and she opens the hatch and enters. While trying to find her, one of the black stormtroopers—and they are definitely black, like Darth Vader is black—picks up a white stormtrooper doll, obviously a child’s toy. Jyn is watching them through a peephole in the rocks.

Wait. What? Why would you give your daughter a stormtrooper doll? Especially if you were hiding from the Empire? That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Jyn descends a ladder into the underground bunker and hugs her knees while she sits in the darkness. Cut to some unknown later time, we can assume much later since the lamp she’s using seems to be running out of Bantha oil or whatever fuels it. Jyn looks up because someone is at the hatch. The hatch opens and it’s Charles Jefferson, star football player at Ridgemont High School. No, strike that. It’s the man from the little television who Lyra called Saw.

“My child!” says Saw. “Come. Come. We have a long ride ahead of us.”

Now we get a tiny slice of theme music—not the familiar JW score, but similarly orchestral—and the ROGUE ONE title appears, eight minutes into the movie. But, it is brief, and still no crawl. I have to applaud the filmmakers’ boldness in this, defying Star Wars convention. It would be funny if the credits at the end of the movie were run as just one long crawl. Funny to me, anyway.

And then we cut to an image of a sleeping woman, who is awakened by water dripping on her face. Since our last image before the cut to title was the young Jyn, I think it’s safe to assume that this is still Jyn, only an older, adult version. I’m not sure where she is, but it has a prison-like feel, or perhaps she’s in the crew quarters of an interstellar freighter or something. Her bunkmate is a Cthulhu, obviously. Naturally, he’s asleep and dreaming, his mouth tentacles moving and probably exciting perverted Japanese men everywhere.

A voice issues from a PA system urging security to check cell block 4227. Okay. Prison, then. Numbers usually have hidden meaning in the SWU. If 4227 has any meaning, the Internet gods don’t know what it is. As Jyn rises from her bunk, we see the cell door, which confirms this is a jail of some sort.

What did Jyn do to end up in prison? What’s happened since Saw Jefferson saved her from her hobbit hole? Is her mother Lyra dead or alive, and where is her father Galen? What’s going on here? Even more importantly, how is Jyn going to get out of jail?

These are what we call story questions, kids. And I love them. They keep my mind engaged even when there’s little action on the screen. Such as now.

The stormtroopers we see outside the cell are of the white variety. Like the doll young Jyn used to have.

We cut to an asteroid field and arrive at what’s called Ring of Kafrene, a trading outpost. We’re told this in words superimposed over the establishing shot. I don’t mind this at all, since I’ve had no idea where I’ve been anywhere else, so far. Ring of Kafrene reminds me of Omega from the Mass Effect 2 video game. From the exterior, at least. A space station carved from an asteroid.

The first interior shot reminds me of Omega as well, and this pleases me. It’s much more crowded than its video game analog, however. The most wretched hive of scum and villainy this side of Mos Eisley, I’d warrant. Substitute the word ratchet, if that makes you happy.

Two guys I don’t know meet inside the Ring of Kafrene, neither looking exactly hearty or hale. The leaner of the two is demanding information from the heavier one—news from Jedha, which sounds like a place, not a person—who tells him that an Imperial pilot, one of the cargo drivers, defected the day before and is telling people that they (meaning the Empire) are making a weapon. Of course, from our vantage point, we know what that weapon is. It’s the one that the Empire is always building. The heavier unknown guy says that’s what the kyber crystals are for.

Hey, I’ve heard of kyber crystals before. I don’t think they were mentioned in either the original or prequel trilogies, but I remember something about them from George Lucas’s original script, I think. Maybe they were important in the animated shows or in the novels. I believe this is their first in-movie reference. Should the word “kyber” be capitallized as a proper noun? Kyber crystal looks more official.

This is also something good science fiction has always done. Dropping references and names such as Jedha and Kyber crystal without explanation. It adds layers to the world-building and keeps you guessing. And, as a group, nerds love to focus on minutiae. Case in point: me. . . and this.

At this point, I think it’s safe to assume that both of these gentlemen are involved with the rebels in some capacity. Especially the lean stranger, the one extracting information about Imperial pilots, weapons and Kyber crystals from the heavier one who’s anxious to return to his ship.

“What kind of weapon?” asks Lean Stranger.

“A planet killer! That’s what he called it!”

Heavy Stranger says that someone named Erso sent the Imperial pilot, and this Erso is some old friend of Saw’s. We don’t know who Erso is yet, but we’ve already met Saw. The plot thickens.

Lean Stranger says, “Galen Erso? Was it?” Okay. Now Galen, Jyn and the possibly-deceased Lyra have a surname, and it’s Erso. This is what it’s like to get your information through dialogue rather than in info dump screen crawls.

Two stormtroopers suddenly appear and request scandocs from Lean and Heavy. Lean pulls a gat and kills the two stormtroopers. Heavy doesn’t seem to like this turn of events.

Another stormtrooper around the corner requests backup and we see a squad of the white-armored soldiers approaching through the narrow passageways. Heavy is freaking out, saying there’s no way he can climb out because of his arm. Oh, by the way, he’s been favoring his arm throughout the two men’s conversation. Not sure what’s wrong with it. Lean Stranger gets closer to his informant, telling him to calm down, it’s all right. And then he kills him with a blast to the back. He’s supposed to be a good guy, I think. No question about who shot first here. Only one guy fired.

Lean Backshooter, who appears slightly remorseful, then begins climbing to make his own escape.

We cut to Jedha, an Imperial-occupied moon. Again, I’m thankful for the superimposed words. It looks like another of the SWU’s endless supply of desert planets. This one appears more Australian than Tunisian or Death Valley-ish.

In long shot, we see a group of dark figures approaching. Another group of dark figures is alerted by their approach. All of them seem to wearing masks of some kind, except for one man in the approaching group who has goggles pushed up on his head. The goggles means he is a pilot, I think.

Goggle-Head says, “Is that him? He looks kind of different to how I imagined.”

Subtitled conversation among the awaiting group reveals that Goggle-Head is the Imperial pilot defector. When the Imperial pilot gets close enough, he asks the leader of the awaiting group—who looks more than a little like Darth Vader without his helmet, but less bulky—if he is Saw Gerrara. Now Forest Whitaker’s character has a surname as well. I don’t think this guy is Saw Gerrara, however.

The Imperial pilot defector realizes the same thing and says they are wasting time that they don’t have. He needs to speak to Saw Gerrara now.

They put a hood over the pilot’s head, who keeps saying they need to get to Jedha City, and escort him away. There is something unsettlingly Taliban-like to this process.

Then we cut to Wobani, where there is an Imperial labor camp. We see Jyn Erso chained up in a prisoner transport ground vehicle. Her bunkmate Cthulhu is also there, apparently still asleep, along with several Imperial stormtroopers. It is safe to assume that the prison we saw her inside was on Wobani as well.

Jyn meets the gaze of another prisoner, a human male, and it seems there is some nonverbal communication going on as the transport vehicle is coming to a halt. One of the stormtroopers asks what’s going on and another answers that they must be doing another pickup. I think something’s about to go down.

The rear door of the vehicle blasts open and the stormtroopers are efficiently gunned down. It’s a breakout! One of the new arrvials, the ones doing the breaking out, says, “Hallick! Liana Hallick!” and one of the others, indicating who I am sure is Jyn Erso, says, “Her.” Then she is released from her restraints.

Jyn doesn’t seem overly grateful, however. She kicks the man freeing her in the stomach. Then she begins swinging a shovel, knocking other rebels out. Jyn doesn’t stop to free the other prisoners; she is interested only in saving her own skin. This version of Star Wars isn’t overrunning with selfless heroes. As she is sprinting out of the prisoner transport, she is clotheslined by a tall droid and unceremoniously hurled to the ground, stunned.

The droid, voiced by Alan Tudyk of Firefly fame, says, “Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist.” It seems that sarcasm is SOP in this quadrant of the galaxy. I like it.

Cut to, Yavin-4, home of the Rebel Alliance Headquarters. A spaceship lands inside a large pyramidal structure in the establishing shot. There is a very brief snippet of John Williams Star Wars music, so quick and fleeting that you might miss it if you’re not listening carefully, and then we’re inside a Rebel Alliance hangar.

This all has a familiar, original trilogy feel to it. Jyn Erso, or Liana Hallick, is led, in restraints, across the hangar. In the next scene, she is being interrogated by someone official-looking. There are several other men in the scene as well, and they are seated around what I take to be one of those neat hologram-making tables.

When Jyn doesn’t respond to the question of whether she is currently calling herself Liana Hallick, the questioner goes on to list her apparent crimes against the Empire. Possession of unsanctioned weapons. Forgery of Imperial documents. Aggravated assault. Escape from custody. Resisting arrest. Jyn Erso is a badass, in other words.

“Imagine if the Imperial authorities had found out who you really were, Jyn Erso,” the man says. See? I was correct.

The inquisitor goes on to call her Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso, a known collaborator in Imperial weapons development. Meanwhile, a woman comes into frame, even before Jyn speaks. It’s Mon Mothma.

“What is this?” Jyn asks.

Mon Mothma responds, ” It’s a chance for you to make a fresh start. We think you might be able to help us.”

Mothma goes on to introduce Captain Cassian Andor, the head of Rebel Intelligence. And as this chapter of the Rogue Edition of 15-Minute Force comes to a close, the character I dubbed Lean Backshooter appears before Jyn. Safe to assume this is Captain Andor.

“When was the last time you were in contact with your father?” Captain Andor asks.

We’ll have to wait for the next chapter to hear Jyn’s answer.

This first installment was a near-perfect quarter-hour, or the first half of the first act, if we’re following traditional three-act story structure. We’ve met Galen and Lyra Erso, Jyn Erso, an Imperial douche named Krennic, Saw Gerrara, Capt. Cassian Andor, an Imperial pilot defector, and we were reintroduced to Mon Mothma. We know that Galen Erso is a scientist, a reluctant Imperial collaborator who is probably working on the Empire’s planet killing weapon. We know that Jyn Erso has been hiding under a false name, but that she was in prison anyway for multiple reasons. And now the Rebel Alliance has freed her from her Wobani prison for. . .well, reasons to be discovered, I suppose.

The next chapter should cap off our initial set up, to lead to our big Act Two. I am intrigued, and I am enjoying this movie so far.

Until next week. . . Be Wary When Captain Cassian Andor Has Your Back…And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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