As a lifelong Star Wars fan I squealed like a five year old girl when I saw the first teaser trailer for The Force Awakens. I thought my head was going to explode with awesome. All the nostalgia hit me like a tidal wave. Oh god, the desert planet…lightsabers…stormtroopers…
I went home and watched it over and over while my family made fun of me. I didn’t care. I was nine years old again and in love, damn it. When I prepared myself to go see the actual movie I wanted to feel like I was going to travel back in time and feel that wide-eyed sense of wonder again.
And…nope. TFA was filled with great actors and very pretty cinematography but the story had the consistency of Swiss cheese–riddled with holes and quite bland. What is this New Order? Is there a Republic again? WTF did they really just stick a giant laser cannon into the middle of a planet? How did it just so happen that Han and Chewbacca were RIGHT THERE? Why is Kylo Ren so emo? How could Han and Leia make such an ugly kid? Etc. etc.
Basically, Abrams tried TOO HARD to play up the nostalgia factor, ironically removing the power of nostalgia in the first place. The original Star Wars was magical because it had a simple story: farm boy saves the galaxy. I don’t think I could sum up TFA in one sentence if I tried, and that’s a problem.
I was demoralized by TFA but my ebbing hope was reignited by the news and trailers for Rogue One. Dark and gritty Star Wars? Space heist? Star Wars war movie? Yes please.
Had a totally different experience with Rogue One. In one sentence: defiant rebel squad infiltrates Empire to steal plans for a superweapon. Yup.
The story wasn’t complex, but just right for Star Wars. Characters all had strong motivation and straighforward characterization. Jyn was full of piss and vinegar. Orson Krennic was the perfect British evildoer. And it was as gritty and intense as promised.
Rogue One didn’t depend on nostalgia. It wrote a new story in an old universe, and it did it with energy and power to spare.
Moral of the story: heart and simplicity win over flashy glittery hand-waving, anyday.