By Ben Bjork
‘Rogue One’ justifies Disney’s takeover of Star Wars
Sometimes when going to the movies it can feel impossible to escape big franchises. All of the top ten highest grossing movies of 2017 so far are either a sequel, a remake, or a reboot of a previous movie, a trend which has been on the rise for years. While popular series like Marvel’s Avengers franchise do very well at the box office, they’re beginning to feel more and more streamlined, like if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Noticing this trend, fans of Star Wars felt some apprehension when Disney, the same company that has been cranking out Marvel movies left and right, purchased Lucasfilm for $4 Billion back in 2012. And while audiences generally liked 2015’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens, it was not until last year’s Rogue One that hardcore lovers ofStar Wars began to feel at ease with the new corporate home of their favorite film series.
Rogue One acts as a direct prequel to 1977’s Episode IV: A New Hope and follows a band of rebels on a mission to steal the highly coveted to the planet destroying mega-weapon the Death Star. Anyone who has seen the original A New Hope will have some idea how their mission ends, but director Gareth Edwards tells the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) with an intensity and importance that Rogue One feel like more than just a cash-grab by the suits at Disney, but rather a justified addition to the Star Wars canon. Edwards is clearly a fan of the series, and handles the recurring characters like rebel leaders Mon Mothma and the iconic Darth Vader with care, even the awkward CGI rendering of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, while somewhat jarring, is well meaning and certainly an impressive technical feat. With a large ensemble cast, not every character feels necessary to the story and not every actor feels entirely comfortable in their roles- I would expect most people to forget Riz Ahmed’s boring role as a former Imperial cargo pilot Bodhi Rook, and Forest Whitaker’s bizarre performance as Saw Gerrera is Razzie material. In fact, the most entertaining character in the film is Alan Tudyk’s comic relief as a reprogrammed enemy droid K2-SO, whose dry wit cuts through the rather dark screenplay tension at just the right moments.
More important than any of the film’s few mistakes and triumphs is the overall sense that Disney cares about Star Wars as something more than just a money farm, and fans can plan on catching a movie set in the galaxy far, far, away without the disappointment associated with so much mainstream franchise filmmaking of today.
‘Enemy Mine’ A decent film with a timeless lesson
Great science fiction often tells us more about the present day when it is created than the future it depicts. Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange shows us a world overrun with vicious psychopaths to teach us of the often dehumanizing nature of modern media, while Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner warns that the 80’s corporate consumer culture could ultimately destroy the environment and start to drain us of our very humanity. Wolfgang Petersen’s 1985 film Enemy Mine, though by no means a great work of science fiction, can act as a lens through which we can view the fractured world of The Cold War.
Dennis Quaid stars as space marine Willis Davidge, who after a crash landing is stuck on a desolate planet with Jeriba Shigan (Louis Gossett Jr.), part of an alien race called the Drac who are in an intergalactic war with humans. Davidge and Jeriba start the film at each other’s throats, demanding that the other hold accountability for their crimes their species have supposedly committed. Soon enough, they discover that the harsh conditions of this deserted planet will require them to work together in order to survive, and the duo begin to form a brotherly bond that transcends their race.
The Cold War was highlighted by a vague and enduring hatred of the nebulous “Other.” The US population was divided along lines of class, race, gender, and ideology, and often times the prejudices of the rulers were legislated and reinforced through the War on Drugs, voter suppression, and unfair welfare reform. People held an irrational anger towards the “communist threat” of the USSR, that lead to Russians being cast as the enemy in almost every popular film of the time. Enemy Mine, though by no means a perfect (or even very good) movie, subverts this trope, and teaches us that sometimes we have more in common with or enemies than we may have thought, and that the only way to solve our problems is to work together.