Rogue One, and Collective Action


Content note: spoilers for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

There are things I liked about Rogue One, and things I didn’t. I mostly didn’t like the ratio of “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” action to dialog and plot. I like “Pew! Pew! BOOM!” as much as the next geek, but there was too much of it here: it got exhausting and overwhelming and boring, and it took time that could have been spent clarifying the sometimes confusing plot. But there were a lot of things I liked (gotta love a sarcastic robot who’s a bad liar), and one thing I liked a hell of a lot:

I liked how Rogue One was about collective action.

I liked that the movie wasn’t another goddamn Hero’s Journey. I liked that it wasn’t about another Destined One Who Will Save Us All. It was about ordinary people stepping up, not because they’re some powerful Jedi’s long-lost son, but because someone has to. It was about the difficulties of collective action, people arguing and splintering and deciding for themselves who to follow — because the alternative is the exact rigid authoritarianism they’re fighting against. It was about a team who all have their crucial part to play, who figure out on the fly how to work together.

In fact, Rogue One completely undercuts the whole Hero’s Journey thing in Star Wars 4-6. Sure, Luke Skywalker gets to be the big hero and go “Pew! Pew!” and blow up the Death Star. In Rogue One, we find out why he was able to do that — because a bunch of ordinary people stepped up, worked together, turned themselves into badasses, and got the Death Star plans to Leia Organa.

And I loved the movie’s attitude toward fighting in hard times against difficult odds. There’s an important idea that kept cropping up: As long as there’s still a chance, you keep fighting. Even if that chance is slim, you keep fighting. If you give up while there’s still a chance, you’re doing your oppressors’ work for them. And the death scene, where Jyn and Cassian hold each other in the face of the oncoming explosion, is burned into my brain like the last scene in Thelma and Louise. They know death is coming — but they know they used their lives doing something worth doing.

We saw the movie with our friend Chris Hall, and he said (paraphrasing here), “I don’t know if it’s the best Star Wars movie, but it’s the movie I needed to see right now.” That pretty much sums it up. Don’t wait for a hero to save you — step up and turn yourself a hero. Work together. Figure out how to work together while still maintaining your individuality and integrity. Life is short and finite, so make it matter. Be willing to make difficult compromises and hard choices, but don’t turn into your enemy. And don’t do your enemies’ work for them. I think this is the movie a lot of us need right now.

Rogue One, and Collective Action