Warning: Huge Spoilers in this review. You will want to see the movie, if you haven’t yet, before reading on.
A week before Christmas, I posted a version of the above sign to Facebook, borrowed last year from a Facebook friend. Along with the picture, I posted: “He came to give new hope to the rogue ones.” According to scripture, we are all “rogue ones.” Handel’s Messiah is often performed at Christmas time, and one of the scriptures used in that oratorio comes from the King James version of Isaiah 53:6.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…
Our rebellion against God is the reason Christ came. We were enemies of God, and He came so we might become His friends. Rebellion is usually seen as a negative thing. But are there times when we should rebel? And if there are such times, how far should we go in that rebellion? Rogue One, watched attentively, challenges us to ask, and attempt to answer, those questions.
Christ did not enter this world two thousand years ago to give hope by overthrowing the government. On trial before Pilate, Jesus told him: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36 NASB) Jesus did not come to overturn the Roman Empire, but to overturn our hearts so our relationship with God would be restored, and we might learn to deal with each other in a new way.
Throughout history, however, this desire to relate to each other in this new way—to love our neighbors as ourselves—has encouraged followers of Christ to rebel against the status quo. They rebelled against how the poor were treated, against slavery and oppression – sometimes joining revolutions or civil wars, either partly or mainly to promote these ideals. Not all followers of Christ joined these wars. There has ever been a debate between those sanctioning “just wars” and those who believe following Christ requires pacifism. I will not attempt to solve that debate here.
Rogue One is a war movie. It assumes the fact wars will happen, and shows war from varying viewpoints. It doesn’t try to give us answers. It merely tries to help us get inside the heads of those who get involved. Some have criticized the movie as an apologetic for the use of barbarity in war. These critics allude to Captain Cassian Andor’s little speech as he and other rebels volunteer to join Jyn on her mission to find her father and retrieve the plans for the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance has voted to disband and discontinue the fight, but the ragtag group refuses to give up. Cassian tells why he believes they must continue the fight.
“Some of us — most of us — we’ve all done terrible things on behalf of the Rebellion. Spies, saboteurs, assassins. Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion. And every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget, I told myself it was for a cause I believed in. A cause that was worth it. Without that, we’re lost. Everything we’ve done would have been for nothing. I couldn’t face myself if I gave up now. None of us could.”
As we watch the movie unfold, many of the actions of the rebels seem to be the behavior of terrorists. I have heard comments from some who watched the movie that the rebels reminded them of ISIS. However, the use of terror by the Empire is much worse. Near the beginning of the movie Director Orson Krennic, reflecting Darth Vader’s view, excuses the terror of the Death Star as “providing peace and security for the galaxy.” But a peace brought about by terror—whether by stromtroopers, or an ultimate weapon—is, indeed, terrorism. And to be fair, the actions of the rebellion are more like the French underground during Word War II than the actions of radically-inspired thugs who often target civilians.
Of course, in war, the innocent are always affected in dreadful ways. In one scene where a convoy of Imperial troops is attacked, a young girl is caught in the crossfire. Jyn comes to her rescue and hands her to her mother, who takes her out of harm’s way. Until that scene, the fighting was pretty much presented in a matter-of-fact way. To the viewer, it feels too little, too late, but Jyn is finally shown to have a compassionate side. It appears to me the filmmakers are trying to show that compassion had an affect on Cassian, prompting some of what he said later when he volunteers. Jyn’s impassioned speech to the rebel leadership, before they vote to stop fighting, also seems to have moved him.
In trailers for the film (see below), the question was asked during this meeting by one of the leaders: “If the Empire has this kind of power, what chance do we have?” Jyn replies:
“What chance do we have? The question is what choice? Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces! You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!”
Whatever doubts Cassian may have had about Jyn before, her passion and compassion have inspired him. He is under orders to assassinate her father, but he comes to believe her claim that Galen Erso has intentionally hidden a flaw in the design of the Death Star. As he is about to carry out the kill order, he relents. Hope wins as he becomes more than just a soldier carrying out orders. Why rebel if your side only blindly follows its leadership, too?
Of course, as you know if you followed my advice and watched the film before reading this, Cassian’s attempt to save Galen is overturned by the actions of the leadership who attack the Imperial research facility, resulting in the scientist’s death. The leadership doesn’t know Cassian has been insubordinate, so he and the group are able to go rogue and continue on to Scarif to steal the plans to the Death Star. Fortunately, not all the rebels have given up on finding the plans, so Jyn’s little group will have back-up. Jyn, Cassian, and the rest, all die, sacrificing their lives to bring hope to the Alliance. Criticize them as you may, but what they did was essential for victory. The rest is Star Wars history….
It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.
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.
Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…. [Opening Crawl from A New Hope]