Here's what I knew about Star Wars: Rogue One when I walked into the Riverview cinema Friday night: "It's the story of how the Rebel Alliance gets the plans for the Death Star that Princess Leia sends to Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope." As someone who has seen most the Star Wars movies, and enjoys them for the fun, thrilling, cultural touchstones they are, that was good enough for me.
True to Star Wars form, Rogue One delivered on the action, thrills and nifty space gadgets and weapons. More to my pleasure, it picked up where last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off (sort of, because The Force Awakens is actually set decades after the action of Rogue One) with the presence of a strong female lead character. In this case, it's Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, who I have to admit is one of the actresses whose name I know but couldn't pick out of a lineup to save my life. Jyn is the daughter of Galen Erso, the Death Star's lead architect, albeit one with a conscience - he designs the Death Star with that one small but fatal flaw which always makes me think of this scene from Family Guy.
Jyn is conscripted by the Rebel Alliance to help track down her father, whom she hasn't seen since she was a child, She and a rag-tag, RACIALLY DIVERSE band of Rebels, Imperial defectors, and two mercenaries (whose presence on this mission is interesting but never really justified to my satisfaction) set off across the Galaxy to obtain the Death Star plans so that a dude who's currently shooting womp rats and drinking blue milk on Tatooine can eventually destroy it. Like any good hero, Jyn is somewhat reluctant at first, but comes around to the importance of what she must do. She trades barbs with K-2SO, a reprogammed Imperial droid who gets the film's best lines, and is voiced by the guy who played Pastor Veal on Arrested Development. She's good with a blaster. She is devastated when her father dies. She is angry when she finds out that fellow Rebel Cassian Andor was actually sent on the mission to kill her father, but eventually forgives him so that they can get those Death Star plans. She does not moon over Cassian, or any of the other men she's surrounded by in the Millennium Falcon 2.0, or whatever the ship they're flying on is called, nor do they moon over her. She is a bad bitch who has to get shit done to save the Galaxy, and she does not have time to try and hook up with any of you dudes, thank you very much. When she does need assistance from Cassian, it's not because she's a damsel in distress, but because sometimes, when you're fighting the evil Galactic Empire, it's just better to have backup, regardless of your gender.
And when the Death Star plans are finally in Princess Leia's hands (thanks, technology!) and everything has gone to shit because the Empire is still evil and the Death Star is operational enough to nuke cities if not planets...Jyn and Cassian still do not kiss. Sure, there are a few moments of heavy breathing and lingering looks when you think they might, but...nope. No romance here, folks, just camaraderie, trust and friendship built over the course of an exceedingly dangerous mission, and that's how it's going to remain until they meet their fiery end on a Scarif beach. The irony, of course, is that, to me at least, impending untimely annihilation is the best excuse for a completely gratuitious random make-out session. What have you got to lose? I can think of a million worse ways to shuffle off the mortal coil than in the comforting embrace of a warm body, pregnancy or disease isn't a concern, and you don't have to have that awkward "So, what are we now?" conversation the next morning.
But I see what you're doing, Rogue One, and I respect it. It's undeniably refreshing to watch a movie about strong, determined women and men working together to accomplish a dangerous, important goal without anyone trying to bone anyone else. I know Rogue One is a standalone film, and we won't see these characters again, but there are more Star Wars movies coming down the pike, and it would be great if they continue to follow in Rogue One's footsteps. A new hope, indeed.
-Kristen M. Scatton