Way back in April 2015, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards first described his film’s tone.
The Hollywood Reporter explained:
Edwards, who said that the film is set after Episode III and before Episode IV, added that his film won’t have clear-cut villains and heroes. It’s also very much a war film, he said. “It’s called Star WARS,” he joked, getting a laugh from the crowd.
Many fans rejoiced, anticipating a gritty war epic that would flesh out Episode IV’s opening crawl:
During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire’s
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
STAR, an armored space
station with enough power
to destroy an entire planet.
Rogue One featured several scenes which had their inspiration from films like The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan.
However, given the Star Wars saga’s traditional place on the fantasy side of science fiction/fantasy, it stood to reason that those fans that had ever fought in a battle might have something to say about Star Wars increasing the resolution on its battlefield lens.
“My childhood, simply put, was immersed in Star Wars,” said Sven Mozdiez, Sergeant USMC, retired. “My older brother and his friends were very much into the Star Wars films, to the extent they can recite the lines of the movie while watching. So, by proxy, I was indoctrinated into the club, and loved it.
“Furthermore, my father is a classical music/composer aficionado. He used to film the Boston Pops for TV on occasion and by his usual job at WCVB/ABC 5 Boston we always had access to tickets for John Williams shows.
“We have a Star Wars soundtrack signed by John to my brothers and I,” added Mozdiez. “Since my father was in the TV-editing business during the height of Star Wars hysteria, he always taught us about film editing, special effects, and sound tracking.”
Presumably, Sven is not the only Star Wars fan to join the military after the events of 9/11. However, through movies, air shows, museums, and trips to Gettysburg, the Marine remained drawn to “militaristic scenarios”.
“I enlisted into the infantry for the specific notion that if I was going to serve I was going to serve as many great Americans before me had, in combat,” added the former foot soldier. “I was an 0351, ‘assaultman,’ proficient in demolitions, javelin [a man-portable missile system], and SMAW [Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon].
“First Battalion 8th Marines, we went right down the middle of Fallujah in November 2004.”
Mozdiez spoke about that battle and noted its intensity.
“It was the worst urban fighting seen by our country since Hue City, Vietnam,” he said. “Door kicking, booby traps, IED, RPG, sniper fire, mortars, and an enemy willing to use their own family […indeed anything] to kill [U.S. soldiers].
“There was also a faction of battle-hardened Chechen fighters with proper training and ballistic armor,” added Mozdiez, who suffered a leg injury while fighting in Iraq. “We lost 22 men and had hundreds of Purple Heart recipients.
“I am happy to be alive with my wife Rebecca, and our four children Brooke, Anna, Madison, and Sven Jr.,” he said.
With his military career as a backdrop, and when asked about how soldiers and veterans might view Star Wars battle scenes, Sgt. Mozdiez graciously spoke to viewing the most recent installment of the saga.
“The more ‘realistic’ the battle – as a point of fiction – is in no way offensive,” said Mozdiez of Rogue One. “However, people who have served in combat, with projectiles of all sizes and explosive capabilities blurring around the vicinity of your face, body, and friends – indeed brothers with whom you trained – worked to be the best.
“So, the most ‘glaring’ difference is that when we shoot, we don’t miss multiple shots and run around without regard for geometry of fire.”
Funny that the historically (hilariously) weak aim of the Empire’s Stormtrooper corps takes on a less than humorous aspect when viewed through the eyes of an actual warrior.
However, and beyond the hazy geometry, Sgt. Mozdiez holds many of Rogue One’s depictions of battle in high regard in terms of their tactical feasibility.
“Rogue One captured some of the essence of urban warfare in the hunt for Saw Gerrera,” said the Marine of Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor’s search for the Partisans and their reclusive leader; the pair walking straight into an ambush. “The Rebels without a true Jedi leader are akin to insurgents that I fought in Iraq.
“Furthermore, in the Rogue One setting, the Rebels are an underground network of families, friends, and brothers-in-arms; heavily oppressed by the Empire and torn apart by murder and ‘eminent domain’.”
Mozdiez didn’t reserve praise for Star Wars’ first standalone film. The former non-com pointed out some moments from the original trilogy as well.
“In Return of the Jedi, the Endor forest battle had similarity to guerilla warfare as seen in Vietnam; use of terrain and organic items on the battlefield,” said the Sergeant. “The AT-ST sandwiched by logs – always a highlight in our house. Almost a ‘Punji pit’ on steroids for light armor.
“Then, in The Empire Strikes Back’s Hoth battle, T-47 snowspeeder takes down the massive AT-AT with the tripwire.”
In terms of its grittiness in comparison to the rest of the saga, it was also interesting to hear Mozdiez’s opinion of the final operation of Jyn and her cell.
“The final raid on Scarif, in my opinion, was more of an assault,” he said. “Raids take planning and support in order to accomplish a specific task with light movement, surprise, and an extract endgame.
“When the Alliance denies backing to the plan, Cassian, Jyn, Rook, and their splinter cell group of rebels technically become a posse without a clear endgame, besides steal the schematics.
“In the hasty planning and surprise attack there was an ominous foreshadowing and, in the end, it turned into a successful – albeit ‘suicide’ – mission.”
However, even today, it doesn’t seem like this soldier focuses on the battles when he watches Star Wars.
Thankfully, the films remain a place of respite and imagination.
“The separate story lines and layers in each film are the moments that always stand out,” said Sgt. Mozdiez as he reverted to fanboy mode. “For instance, the Tusken Raiders are a quirky bunch doing what they do in the desert, in a sort of ‘meanwhile’, matter-of-fact way.
“The encounter with them in Episode IV, though brief, gives the group a deep story plot of life on Tatooine.
“There are many small plot lines in all the films that sometimes nag at your fantasy in a sort of ‘I wonder what they are doing’ way, while the main story play out,” explained Sven. “Thus, born is the numerous cult followings, whether it be Tuskens, Ewoks, Jawas, the Hutts – anyone or anything in the universe of Star Wars.”
Which begs the question: Where would Mozdiez place himself, if he suddenly became The Maker?
“I would choose the Rebels,” he said. “Though I have many flaws and can be a handful of trouble to some, in the end, I am always there to help for what I believe is a just cause.
“I have never been a ‘lemming’ so to speak, and would stand ground against any enemy of any size.”
Semper fi, Sgt. Mozdiez. Thank you for your service.