There were only two possible reactions to the end of Rogue One where they killed off the entire primary cast of the movie. People either loved it or hated it. I fall into the hated it camp and I want to explain why I think you should join me here.
The people who loved it tend to echo the director’s and the writer’s takes on the ending. The director, Gareth Edwards, said, “They don't appear anywhere else in the original trilogy, so if they had lived and had any sort of significant story in terms of their lives, it would have been strange for them not to have a fleeting glimpse somewhere in the original trilogy.” That’s simply not true. The original trilogy was about Luke and his friends, not the rebellion as a whole. In the original trilogy, it’s strongly implied that there are lots of other rebels doing missions of their own while Luke and his crew are fighting in their own way. Did anyone think the rebellion was put on hold while Luke was on Dagobah or while they were rescuing Han from Jabba’s palace? Jyn and Cassian could easily have been with some other rebel cell during that time.
One of the writers, Gary Whitta, said, “I think this this is a story about Martyrdom and the ultimate price some people pay for the freedom of others and that’s what heroism [is].” The only problem is, this isn’t true either. Rogue One is a combination spy movie and heist movie. Trying to add a message about martyrdom made it feel forced and awkward. If it were about martyrdom, then it doesn’t make any sense that the crew wasn’t ever mentioned again. There would have been at least one cry of, “For Jyn!” on Hoth. One mention of the heroic sacrifice should have popped up somewhere. Plus, to be about martyrdom, there’s no reason to kill everyone; just the martyrs had to die. Rogue One also wasn’t a tragedy. In a tragedy, not only is it acceptable for everyone to die, the deaths are at least partly the point. This movie was about hope, as Princess Leia says in the last line of the movie.
Another reason it was a mistake to kill everyone was built into the character of Jyn Erso. She had many roles in the movie, but one of the most important was the role of witness. She saw her mother killed and her father kidnapped. She saw Saw Gerrera’s struggle. She heard her father’s confession and hopes. With Jyn’s death, all those things become moot. There is no redemption for Galen or Saw. No one is left to remember them. Their memories die with the death of their witness. The whole Star Wars saga is about redemption and hope. Jyn’s death undercuts those themes.
The way the deaths were handled was also a mistake. It felt more like checking boxes than an organic part of the story. Starting with Saw Gerrera, as each character completed their task, they were unceremoniously dispatched. There was no reason for Saw to die when everyone he was with survived. He literally told Jyn he wasn’t escaping with them and died. Completely pointless. Bodhi got the message to the fleet and boom, he dies. Chirrut flips the switch and zap, he dies. Worst of all was Baze. He didn’t even really do anything. He was just another body to add to the pile.
Finally, Cassian and Jyn had legitimate character arcs in the movie that were rendered pointless by their deaths. They both changed and grew. They became better, stronger, and nobler people. Then they died. Oh well. Hope you didn’t get too attached. It left me with a feeling of “What was the point of what I just watched?”
When you get right down to it, killing all the main characters just felt lazy. It didn’t make sense for the Empire to destroy their own archives, but it would have taken a little bit of thought and effort to find a way for some of the group to escape. Instead, they all died. That was the easy and predictable way out and so disappointing.
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Written by Gene Glotzer
Syndicated from Culture Slate