Telling us stories we already know (part 1)
There’s a new Star Wars film coming out this week. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m not as excited as I was this time last year when Episode 7 came out. I think this has something to do with the place that it’s positioned in the Star Wars canon. When the opening titles ran for Episode 7, I realised that I had NO IDEA what was happening next, and the teaser trailers had been just that – teasers. Most of the images were from the beginning of the film and gave very little away. If you kept your ears closed to the fan theories, you had no idea who the characters were; that said, if you knew anything about the actors’ views of Star Wars, it was very clear, for example, that Harrison Ford wanted Han Solo killed off at the end of Empire, and once he’d stepped onto that bridge, it was clear that there was only going to be one way off it.
Rogue One looks very pretty from the trailers – I get the feeling that the story writers have taken elements from all the other films that worked and piled them all together (The AT-ATs were my favourite element of the whole series, simply because nothing like them had ever been seen before; and I like the fact that Genevieve O'Reilly is the spitting image of Caroline Blakiston playing Mon Mothma), but, like Episode 1-3, I felt that I already knew the story. Not the whys and the wherefores, but I know WHAT was going to happen. But then, there’s all the foreshadowing and dramatic irony. We know the destructive force of the Death Star – the idea of it rising over a planet foreshadows the destruction of Alderaan. I wonder if we’ll learn why the rebel base was deserted on Dantooine? And Disney are onto a winner now. No longer is the female lead character the helpless princess in the tower who needs rescuing, but she’s a strong character who’ll lead the action. It’ll sell the merchandise to a wider audience.
But, we know the story, which was the problem with episodes 1-3: In Episode 4 we were told “the Jedi are all-but extinct” so that was what we were anticipating in the “unholy trilogy”. For any character who was a Jedi, their card was marked. It was only a matter of time. Ian McDiarmid, who played Senator Palpatine in the first films, played Emperor Palpatine in Episode 6, so, when the camera lingered on him at the end of Episode One, asking “but which was destroyed, the master or the apprentice?” you had a sneaking suspicion that he would become corrupted, twisted and, oh yes, all powerful. And when you knew there could only be One Master and One Apprentice, you pretty much knew that Christopher Lee’s time was up before the send of the trilogy. This was a shame, because he and Darth Maul were some really good boo-able villains, rather than a petulant teenager whose lip wobbled as he declares “Some day will be the most powerful Jedi ever. I promise you. I will even learn to stop people from dying” in one of those god-awful lines written by George Lucas, of which Harrison Ford said: “George, you can type this shit, but you sure can’t say it”.
And it all felt so wrong feeling that you ought to cheer on “Annie” as the precocious child (of virgin birth fame) went pod racing, knowing that he was going to be one of the most iconic villans in the universe. As I went in to see Episode 3, I knew that it ended with a volcano (I wasn’t aware of the size of the volcano, but I knew it was a volcano none-the less). Obi-wan would survive, so would Yoda. The Twins would live, but Padmé would not. Anakin would become Darth Vader. No surprises in the destination. It was just the journey details we didn’t know.
I feel the same way about Rogue One. The trailers have given a lot away (although I read an article that claimed that 50% of the material that had been released wasn’t in the film). Some of the sections I have seen look very pretty. That doesn’t sit in with the canon because episodes 4-6 now look clunky - having recently watched the Holy Trilogy on Blu-ray, I felt let down because it didn’t transfer well. You can see the outlines of the special effects. This has a feeling of remaking, but with 21st century digital imagery. But, the point is, we already know how the story begins and how it ends. For whatever reason, Jyn is in prison, but is freed because she’s needed to reveal information about her father, Galen Erso, who has built the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Jyn is charged to find the plans, which she succeeds in doing. Presumably, the stolen plans are successfully transferred to the starship the Tantive IV where Princess Leia places them in the care of Artoo Detoo. Presumably the characters don't get to the end of he film - noble sacrifice - because they don't appear in Episode 4 (could they be given a nice pension and a decent retirement for services to the rebellion. Unlikely) The rest, as they say, is history. Spoiler alert! The Death Star is destroyed at the end of Episode 4.