It’s no surprise that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been hitting it big at the box office since its release. After all, almost anything with the label “Star Wars” attached to it seems to sell like Jawa juice in the Tatooine desert. In other words, it (Star Wars) sells like hotcakes.
But, it doesn’t stop at the box office. No, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has also made the New York Times bestseller list. Again, that’s no surprise. In fact, this first installment of the Star Wars Story-themed films has become quite the stage-setter for the future stand-alone movies. Yes, this story took many risks and in doing so, set the bar for its successors.
A lot of dark-toned risks broke the so-called “norm” from what we consider Star Wars etiquette, or “code.” In other words, the hero (or in this case, heroes) doesn’t live to fight another day and instead, becomes a necessary loss to the great cause of the Rebellion. And that loss, of immense devastation, is primarily focused on the individual consciousness. Especially that of the imagination of the viewer/reader, leaving the individual in a state of melancholia or sadness that resembles the themes and styles found in Romanticism or Romantic Literature.
For instance, in Romanticism there is almost always a “Romantic Hero” – a literary archetype referring to a character that rejects established norms and conventions, has been rejected by society, and is the center of his or her own existence. And this, my friends, would be our protagonist Jyn Erso.
Jyn is every bit the depiction of the above description – Rogue One’s “Romantic Hero.” Heck, even her nickname from birth, “Stardust,” harkens back to this theme. From the beginning, she’s an outcast, and orphaned from a young age–raised by a military extremist and brought up to go against the grain where government, political ideals, and society are concerned. It’s as if the writers of this Star Wars story took this character right out of the pages from the eighteenth or nineteenth century–the era of Romantic Literature.
But again, it doesn’t stop there. The dark themes in Rogue One go beyond the Romantic hero archetype. For instance, the test runs of the Death Star and the “Guardians of the Whills” connect or parallel with Nature as a Teacher and Spiritual Elements, two of the main six characteristics of Romantic Literature. Granted, we’ve seen a bit of both in all seven Star Wars films prior to Rogue One, but what’s different is the intent and usage of both characteristics.
Nature as a Teacher
Science can be dangerous and new technology can also be dehumanizing (see Romanticism via Wikipedia for references and examples), and yes, we have seen threads of this throughout the Star Wars films, but never on such a level as we see in Rogue One. Yes, we’ve seen the Death Star blow up Alderaan in Star Wars: A New Hope, but that was not nearly as dehumanizing as that of the initial test on the holy city of Jedha. For the first time, we were given a close look at the suffering this superweapon can manifest.
Yearning for the unknown and the unknowable – Romanticism rejected materialism in pursuit of spiritual self-awareness, and this concept to me is revived through Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, our “Guardians of the Whills.” Neither men are looking for profit or gain. Instead, their hope is to restore (or at the very least, retain) the sacred knowledge of the Whills. While both appear to be direct opposites of one another, both embody the same goal: trust the Force and protect it at all cost, for it is their faith that carries them forward and enables them to overcome what may seem as impossible feats. An example of this would be Chirrut’s Force-walk to the master switch on Scarif.
As an avid lover of reading and literature in general, I can’t help but feel as if Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has revived the art of Romantic Literature for me. That said, most of us grew up studying the works of Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, and of course, William Shakespeare. Their words were laced in expressions of dark-toned thematic passion. (In other words, you love to hate it, so to speak.) Coming from a hopeless romantic, it’s no wonder I’ve been told time and time again that I’m an “Anakin Apologist” – emotions, passion, and irrationality are my go-to combination of choice for a good read or movie. Hence, I love Star Wars so much.
That said, my most favorite and climatic moment of Rogue One, both on screen and in the literary adaptation is the ending scene on Scarif with our “Romantic Hero,” Jyn and the “Rugged Individual,” Captain Cassian Andor. This moment captures what’s known as “Exoticism” and mixes it with emotions, passion, and irrationality. Scarif is “Exoticism” at its finest. A location that under any other circumstance would give off an air of escape from reality, it’s a tropical paradise. That combined with the characters’ final realization that the essence of humanity is instinctive and personal. In layman’s terms: could have, should have, would have… only now, for them, it’s too late.
No, they didn’t kiss, and some would argue that they were not romantically connected but I’d be inclined to disagree. You see, there are some intimacies that surpass an average act of affection such as a kiss. So, for me, those final moments on the beaches of Scarif as they await the inevitable, clinging to one another, are probably the most tragically poetic moments in Star Wars history and perhaps, put a new spin on the term “star-crossed lovers.” In this case, stardust.
- Becca Benjamin is a Medical Receptionist for a Retina Specialist, and the Editor-in-chief for the former The Cantina Cast website, an innovative and thought-provoking Star Wars podcast. She is also a host (with co-host Mark Sutter) on Tarkin’s Top Shelf, a literary Star Wars podcast and the personal author for Lucasfilm artist Steve Anderson. Becca is a monthly blog contributor for Coffee with Kenobi and is currently working on several other Star Wars projects with multiple outlets! You can connect with Becca on Twitter @urangelb