Media & Entertainment

‘Rogue One’ transports viewers to a bigger Star Wars universe

Comment

Rogue One Jyn Ersa
Image Credits: Disney/Lucasfilm

For months, I insisted that I wasn’t going to see Rogue One.

I was kind of a whiner about it: Yes, I did see The Force Awakens, and yes, I mostly liked it, but I kept telling friends that I didn’t need to buy a ticket to a new Star Wars movie every year for the rest of my life. I repeated that speech right up until I found out that a certain TechCrunch editor had overlooked his invite to a press screening.

So last night, despite my protests, I found myself watching another Star Wars movie. Even then, I told myself it was for journalism’s sake. I maintained the lie for as long as I could, but by the time I walked out, I had to admit that I loved Rogue One — more than Force Awakens, more than any Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.

To be clear, it has its share of problems. The characters are drawn in such broad strokes that I imagine the final script was littered with Post-it notes reading FILL IN CHARACTER ARC HERE. It’s only thanks to the heavy lifting of the actors that our heroes feel like more than a generic band of ragtag rebels. (Hey, that was true in the original trilogy, too.)

But despite the underdeveloped characters, this is an exciting start to Disney’s “anthology” films, which will explore stories outside the main Star Wars narrative. Rogue One in particular focuses on how the Rebel Alliance gets its hands on the plans for the Death Star — the same Death Star plans that Princess Leia is fleeing with in the very first shot of the very first film.

Now, that might not sound terribly promising: Was anyone really demanding to know who stole the Death Star plans and why? The premise sounds particularly worrying since this is a franchise with a record of filling in its back story in the most disappointing way …

But it turns out that Rogue One‘s setup is exactly what was needed — it allows director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy (working from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta) to tell a very different kind of Star Wars story.

Think about seeing A New Hope for the first time. Think, in particular, about the Mos Eisley cantina with its seemingly endless variety of aliens. Even more than the justly famous shot of Luke Skywalker framed against the two suns of Tattooinethat‘s the moment when the movie convinces you — as no science fiction movie had before — that there’s a bigger Star Wars universe beyond the edges of the screen.

In Mos Eisley, you could almost believe that every single creature at that bar had an interesting story to tell. The subsequent films are also stuffed with cool aliens, spaceships and other hints at that broader world — a world further fleshed out in the gone-but-not-forgotten expanded universe of novels, comics and video games. (There’s even a book about Mos Eisley.)

Rogue One stormtroopers

But the actual plots of Episodes I through VII suggest that there’s only one story that really matters, namely the grand battle between Jedi and Sith, Rebels and Empire — and only a handful of characters who really matter to that struggle. Everyone else is a bit player.

Maybe it’s a personal thing, but this has always felt a little unsatisfying to me, as far as space opera fantasies go. Thankfully, Rogue One isn’t about that grand narrative. It’s not about someone discovering that they’re the Chosen One destined to bring down an evil empire. Instead, it’s about people who are barely more than a footnote in the bigger story.

This seems to free Edwards and his writers in a number of ways. For one, there’s a surprising grimness to the plot. You might not think that this kind of fatalism belongs in a Star Wars movie, but if anything, it makes Rogue One feel more grandly heroic than its predecessors. The rebels really don’t know if they’re going to succeed — and even if they do win, they know victory will come at great cost.

Rogue One doesn’t look like other Star Wars movies, either. It’s certainly full of visual nods to A New Hope, but Edwards has also talked about his desire to create a gritty war movie, which turns out to be surprisingly accurate. No, we’re not talking about Saving Private Ryan here, but the action scenes have a visceral, down-to-Earth quality that puts them in a different universe from the carefully choreographed lightsaber duels of the prequels.

Everything comes together in the finale, which connects a muddy gunfight on the surface of a tropical planet with a spectacular battle in the skies above. It’s a beautiful, thrilling sequence, leading into my favorite ending of any Star Wars film.

So ultimately, I left the theater resigned to the fact that I’ll be seeing more Star Wars movies in the future. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed by some of them. But Rogue One convinced me that this far away galaxy still has plenty of interesting corners worth exploring.

More TechCrunch

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

13 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

15 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck

As part of 2024’s Accessibility Awareness Day, Google is showing off some updates to Android that should be useful to folks with mobility or vision impairments. Project Gameface allows gamers…

Google expands hands-free and eyes-free interfaces on Android