*Spoilers for a bunch of Star Wars films.*
Note that this article was written at the height of my obsession with Rogue One. I’ve edited it for clarity and also to make myself sound smarter.
In a few moments, I’m going to write a sentence here, but you have to promise me you won’t get angry. Ready? I think Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie out there. At least, it’s my favorite one.
The thing that makes Rogue One great is not the fact that it can stand on its own two feet – although it does that pretty well as well. Instead, it’s true value comes from the fact that it bridges the two main trilogies in the Star Wars universe. I realized this after watching Return of the Jedi for the Force-knows-how-manyth time. Thanks to John Williams, I get goosebumps at precise beats throughout the movie, but this time I was moved by a scene I hadn’t paid too much attention to before.
Right after Luke Skywalker & company save Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt in Tatooine, we come on board Home One, the Mon Calamari flagship of the Rebel Alliance. As the shot moves through the corridor and pans to a wide shot of the command centre, we see Mon Mothma take the stage and start explaining what the Empire is up to. Finally, she utters the now famous words, “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.”
And for the first time ever, I truly felt the gravity of that statement. Before Rogue One, the actions of unseen Rebel agents were… well unseen and unknown. They were mere words. We could imagine what they had done and what they had to go through, but it wasn’t real. After having seen Rogue One, however, the entire mood of this scene has changed.
This alone is one of the reasons why I believe Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie. It brought new depth and light to the original trilogy. For the first time ever, we know what it feels like to be someone who is not affiliated with the Skywalkers. We get to see the real soldiers of the Rebellion, people who are truly willing to die for their cause, people whose names no one will remember. But they die, knowing that they have done their part to save the galaxy from complete domination.
This time when Mon Mothma told her audience about the Bothans who sacrificed their lives for the Rebellion, we know that she has the crew of Rogue One in her mind. We know that she is thinking about how it’s Scarif all over again. Maybe she feels guilty, thinking that the sacrifice of Jyn Erso and company might have been in vain. It took the lives of so many to destroy the first Death Star and the Empire was able to build another, larger one in less than 3 years. What chance does the Rebellion have?
And here it is that we are reminded of the other lesson of Rogue One: Their sacrifice could never have been in vain, because it gave the Rebellion the one weapon that, in the end, helped them stop the Empire: Hope.
Hope, it turns out, is the driving force behind the Rebellion. “Rebellions are built on hope.”
Let’s go back to the aptly renamed A New Hope. We are in Yavin IV and the mood seems tense. We thought it was tense before, but after Rogue One the situation feels infinitely more grim; but against all odds the leaders of the Rebellion know that they have a chance to succeed. Hope is all that keeps them going.
Sure, on the surface it looks like the son of Skywalker is why everyone has hope – after all, his peppy, “Oh I can do this in my sleep” attitude does give his fellow pilots some inspiration. Yet little does Luke know that his comrades have just barely survived the Battle of Scarif. In fact, his designation, Red 5, belonged to a pilot who was martyred there.
I wonder if Luke knows who the original Red 5 was. I wonder if anyone told him.
Rogue One is a great movie, not only because of its own merits, but because of the depth and nuance it has brought to the original trilogy. It has made the Star Wars universe better and more real than any of other expanded universe material that has been erased by Disney.
Thank the Force for Rogue One, honestly.