I was nervous as I sat down in the movie theatre. This nervousness didn’t dissipate but intensify during the first part of Rogue One. “Oh my god, this is going to be one of the hit and miss.” Too many characters, too many places. Everything was happening too fast. Impossible to follow. I didn’t remember any of the characters’ names except the main protagonist, Jyn Erso.
All of them seem so fascinating and complicated, and yet they were not given the time to tell their stories. The monk who is not quite Jedi, but still makes it his life mission to protect an ancient Jedi temple; the rebel leader who almost confesses his guilt in doing the dirty work in the name of justice; the cargo pilot who has a revelation that makes him turn away from the Empire. And Jyn, our kick-ass lead, seems to be an erstwhile petty criminal with too much unexplained pain and anger.
Each of them deserves their own movies but we didn’t get much from them apart from skin-deep dialogues.
But when I came out of the theatre, that didn’t seem to matter much anymore. Jyn’s face still stared at me from every Rogue One poster, but this isn’t her story. Not in the sense that A New Hope is Luke’s story or the Force Awaken is Rey’s story. In those stories, hero is a singular concept. It’s a destiny. They are pulled by the force to become the Chosen Ones. The Rogue One crew is assembled almost by accident. They are not the legend, and they would never become legends in that galaxy far far away.
Deaths, in Rogue One, happen quickly, abruptly and often quite meaningless. Many of them die without so much of an exposition. They don’t die like Ben Kenobi, but more like the rebels that got slaughtered by Darth Vadar during the final sequence. Do you remember those rebels’ names? In war times especially, deaths come in abundance, meaningless and cheap. No one remembers them.
And yet they are the key to the destruction of the Death Star. The Death Star isn’t destroyed by one fundamental design flaw that no one detected, or by the chosen one’s miraculous bombing manoeuvre. It is destroyed by many nameless sacrifices. Facing their own imminent deaths, instead of paralysed by fear, they still pass along the key to the Empire’s downfall.
In the end, I still don’t remember many of the characters’ names. And I think that is the point. Rogue One is the requiem for all the nameless heroes.
Heroism needs not be singular. The majority of us will never be Leia the brave princess, Luke the Jedi master or Han the rebel. In all political movements, there are the leaders and there are the masses. No movement can take off without either one. In most cases, the masses are the key.
The Empire will become the First Order, but there will always be resistance. In light of today’s political climate, Rogue One is indeed the film we need. Rebellions are built on hope, and the many nameless heroes.