Some Thoughts on Rogue One and Princess Leia

I know I hardly ever post on here anymore, but between watching Rogue One and the death of Carrie Fisher, I felt inspired to write some of my thoughts down. And let me be clear, given that I heard about Carrie Fisher’s death right before going to see Rogue One, these two will forever be inextricably linked together in my mind.

When I first heard about Carrie Fisher’s heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles, I was struck by how upset I was. So many cultural icons have passed away this year already: Jareth, Professor Snape, Admiral Ackbar, Shepherd Book, NuTrek Chekhov and now this with Princess Leia. I really didn’t want us to lose Princess Leia as well.

On this site I talk a lot about major female characters that have influenced me over the years. Most significantly, Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley., but I hadn’t said much about Leia, though she was no less a hero. In fact, she was probably one of my earliest influences. I didn’t have a Ripley doll, but I certainly had a 12” Princess Leia. I even remember trying to pin my plaits up like Leia in Return of the Jedi. She was always just there.

It’d be easy to dismiss her as just the “love interest” but really she was a princess who was quite capable of assisting in her own rescue, thank you very much. A princess who thought nothing of walking into Jabba the Hutt’s lair to rescue her “flyboy.”She was a princess who was forced to swallow her grief when her entire planet is destroyed, and do what needs to be done,a nd in truth, that makes her a lot like Carrie Fisher. She’s as much of a wise-ass as Princess Leia. She’s a person who battled not the evil Empire, but her own mental illness, and came out the other side, freeing not just herself, but others who have been trapped in the dark, unable to discuss their own mental health issues. So even though I may not have said it before, you can definitely add Princess Leia to my list of heroes.

All of these feelings have clouded my view of Rogue One. I think I would give it about 4/5, but that may be more because of Carrie Fisher than anything. I will say that Jyn Erso makes another wonderful addition to Star Wars’ growing list of heroines. And in a lot of ways, this really was Jyn Erso’s story who begins her arc in a Han Solo-esque way as someone who wants nothing to do with the rebellion, but quickly learns that some things are more important, although I do wish the resto fthe characters had been more fleshed out.

One thing I did dislike was that they took away the little touchstones that remind you you’re watching a Star Wars movie. No opening crawl? No screen swipes to transition between scenes? I really missed these, especially for a movie that’s really episode 3.5, it fits so wonderfully between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. How cool was it to see Bail Organa and what could only be Darth Vader’s lair on Mustafa? I loved the addition of Peter Cushing. I just wish I hadn’t heard about it beforehand. I felt like I could see the uncanny valley happening, but I watched it in 2D, and overall it didn’t bother me. I love Peter Cushing and it was a delight to see more Grand Moff Tarkin. However, I literally cried when a digitized Leia appeared at the end. I appreciated that there were headnods to the other movies, but not too many. They still managed to make it their own. Oh and K-2SO is my new favourite robot, for sure!

But what I loved most of all, was the battle scene. What a joy to watch. It felt so epic. I don’t think there’s been a Star Wars space battle scene like this since the original trilogy. In a way the battle spells good and bad things for Rogue One. Good because it was amazing and made me giddy. Bad, because actually my favourite parts of A New Hope is everything leading up to the Death Star assault, so it highlights how much more characterization was needed in Rogue One. Not that I didn’t care for these characters, but I needed to care more.

I did really enjoy this film though, perhaps more so than Episode VII which I thought felt more like a fan film than Rogue One. It had all the touches we love, and boy after the prequels, it was the film a lot of us needed, but (especially after the death of Carrie Fisher) it felt like the end of an era, whereas Rogue One with its world-building and its focus on characters who don’t have the Force is, for me, the beginning of a new Star Wars universe.