Star Wars without the Force – reviewing Rogue 1

OK so I saw Rogue 1. To me it was one of the best Star Wars movies ever made, up there with The Empire Strikes Back. In the specific, it was a sci-fi war movie – pure and simple. And it showed what usually happens in war – where people usually end up dead.

The cinema where I first saw Star Wars in 1977 - repurposed when I took this photo and since rebuilt again - with an arrow showing where I was in the queue and how far it had to go when the theatre filled...
The cinema where I first saw Star Wars in 1977 – re-purposed when I took this photo and since rebuilt again – with an arrow showing where I was in the queue and how far it had to go when the theatre filled…

It had every potential to be terrible – a movie-length back-story that explained a specific plot-point in the original 1977 Star Wars. That’s where fan fiction and ‘completist obsessives’ usually go. But it wasn’t – it had a sharp story, a tight plot, and the special effects were excellent.

What gave it the edge, for me, was that it showed the Force as an act of faith, and had only one scene with light-sabres.

That whole aspect of Star Wars has always been unappealing to me, for a lot of reasons. In the original movie, I understand Lucas used light-sabres because he was making a homage to the golden age of Hollywood adventure film with swashbuckling swords. And as it was sci-fi – well, why not have laser swords?  That worked cinematically – no question, it was wonderful stuff. But as a story device? I know the Force is meant to let its practitioners use the light-sabre to deflect laser beams. What about artillery? Or the Death Star’s superlaser?  If the Force is mediated by physicality – as was explained – it must have limited energy-handling capacity. “And that, your honour, is why I bought my BFG 9000 to the sword-fight…”

I never liked the Force anyway. It was unsubtle: a black-or-white metaphor for the human condition that was progressively given physical reality as the movie series progressed. In the original 1977 movie it was, at least, never explained – allowing the audience imagination to work and giving it a dimension of the unknown, which is great for stories.

But it still produced some stupid plot turns – especially the moment in the first fourth [sic] movie of 1977 where Luke turned off his targeting computer and trusted the Force to hit a small target. Uh – really? That targeting computer was designed to hit small targets. Even in the mid-1970s, there were military targeting computers that had that capability – laser-guided weaponry was developed for the Vietnam war, demanding a bit of processing power behind them. You’d expect a tech well in advance of ours to be able to do way better.

Wouldn’t it be better for Luke to have self-doubts about doing the strafing run in the first place and relying on the Force to provide him moral guidance and wisdom?

Or maybe that’s just me.

As for Rogue 1? More please.

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Copyright © Matthew Wright 2017

6 thoughts on “Star Wars without the Force – reviewing Rogue 1

  1. I loved Rogue 1 also, Matthew! I also agree about The Empire Strikes Back as being the best movie of the series. Recently I purchased the complete (not really) of the Star Wars Saga for my husband and we watched it over a few nights. It brought back memories of when I first saw them. I was in awe of some of the special effects back then. Now they are not as impressive but the DVD was remastered and they did improve the digital quality of it. The last two movies I plan to purchase as soon as they are available. I never get sick of watching them! May the Force Be With You! Thanks for sharing your thought, always enjoyable!

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    1. Thank you for your kind thoughts! I had the same experience with the SFX – I saw Star Wars originally in 1977 and was totally blown away by the awesome effects. Dated by today’s standards… and yet I think even today that sort of model-work has an edge in some ways over CGI purely because it does have that sense of being something tangible – there’s a subtlety about that which CGI can’t replicate (yet!).

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  2. So good to hear. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

    For me, I always thought The Force was loosely based on Buddhism. Wasn’t Lucas heavily influenced by Asian Cinema? Star Wars looks strikingly similar to Hong Kong Action Cinema where swordsmen can fly, fight battles whilst standing on a fence post and perform other superhuman acts. It’s pure fantasy and I take it as seriously as that. Star Wars only gets the scifi label because spaceships and robots are in it. The storytelling is pure fantasy. I don’t watch SW expecting a plot like I would find in an Arthur C. Clarke novel. I expect fantasy from Andre Norton.

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    1. You’re right. And if we shed the sci fi element it is excellent fantasy – certainly deliberately written as pure mythology with all the themes (I believe Lucas even had Joseph Campbell as script adviser on the original.)

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  3. Rogue One was brilliant! I watched in the small but delightful cinema in Takaka. I enjoyed it more than the latest episode in the main series. It was probably my favourite Star Wars film since the original three.

    Regarding Luke’s use of the force instead of the computer aided targeting system – I wonder why humans were flying those spaceships in the first place. Surely the droids would do a better job. Even the cynical ones.

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    1. I agree – I enjoyed it more than ‘The Farce Awakens’ too! (I may have made a typo there… :-)) Jealous that you got to see it in a Takaka cinema – way better experience than the anonymous and corporatised Reading outlet in Napier where I caught it. (A far cry from Napier’s golden-age-of-Hollwood ‘State Theatre’ where I saw the original, way back when. Classic 1930s Spanish Mission – all that remains now is the facade. Curiously, and despite living in Wellington pretty much since 1981, every Star Wars movie I’ve seen on first release has been in a Napier cinema!)

      Yeah – droids would do a way better job than humans of flying. I think that one was also dealt with in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, where the Cylon fighters were actually purpose-built robots. Still got their asses whupped by the human pilots, mostly, but hey, that’s TV… 🙂

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