THE THEOLOGICAL ENGINEER
A Movie Review
By Jeff Laird
How much of history do we owe to those whom history itself has forgotten?
That, if anything, is the most spiritually-relevant question one can draw out of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Unlike every other Star Wars film to date, Rogue One does not revolve around the exploits of a Jedi. As a result, it doesn't present the same religious questions as the other installments. As it turns out, that actually makes the plot all the more meaningful.
Rogue One presents an arc of epic heroism, which never gets the publicity enjoyed by those who take over afterwards. This is not a story about the galaxy's most famous idols; it's a behind-the-scenes look at the sacrifices made by the anonymous everyman. For those looking to open a biblically meaningful discussion, that is the most potent take-away of the film.
Specifically, Rogue One exposes how humanity tends to oversimplify history into single, simple heroes, and their notable moments. In truth, those exploits are usually just the tip of a much longer spear. How much of our family history, national history, and church history was enabled by faces and names that nobody will ever remember?
In the "history" of the Star Wars universe, people like Luke Skywalker and Leia (Amidala/Organa/Solo) Skywalker are famous, heralded, and remembered by all. That, specifically, includes us as the audience of the films. Leia delivers stolen schematics. Luke delivers the fatal blow to the Death Star. Two easy accomplishments to remember, of course. But none of that could have happened without struggle and sacrifice by countless others. Simply setting up those victories was the result of many, many other choices and encounters.
Rogue One brings this point into stark, often bleak clarity. Those who take the famous final step often see their names in history's hall of fame, while those who ran the marathon leading up to that point fade into obscurity.
There are other meaningful topics inspired by a film such as Rogue One. What are we willing to fight and die for? How often do we shrink from what's right simply because the cost seems too high? How many of the things we take for granted were won by the struggles of others? At what point do we accept risk, rather than running from it? How much of our heroes' legacy is owed to the people whose names and faces never made it into the spotlight?
That leads to the other major spiritual point raised by Rogue One: the influence of "ordinary" people. Prior films in the series focused on protagonists who were legendary outlaws, super-geniuses, space wizards, or something to that effect. While the characters featured in this movie are hardly mundane, none of them are too far above "ordinary" in a science fiction universe. In the annals of Star Wars history, they are forgettable. And yet, their actions enable the ultimate victory of their cause.
This, as well, makes for interesting conversation about our roles as Christians. There will always be a tiny fraction of believers under the spotlight. These may be leaders and Pastors, or celebrity figures and world-famous evangelists. And yet, the vast majority of the work of the Christian church is driven by those human history considers nameless, faceless, and eventually forgotten. Rather than being a discouragement, a take-away from Rogue One is an appreciation for how much our efforts, despite their insignificance to the world, can really mean in the grand scheme of things.
Rogue One is definitely "darker" than any of the other series' films. Every Star Wars installment has its nefarious moments. Planets are destroyed, spaceships explode, people die, and so forth. Specific plot points in Revenge of the Sith were, arguably, far more disturbing than anything seen in Rogue One, for example. And yet, the overall tone of this film is significantly more serious. There is much less of a playful, space-fantasy feel to this movie, as compared to the others. For that reason, it's not quite as youth-friendly as other pictures, and probably not the best choice for a very young fan.
That being said, as is typical of Star Wars movies, there is no coarse language, sensuality, nudity, gore or other graphic imagery in Rogue One. The exception to this is the pervasive military action, much of which involves death and destruction to identifiable people. So, those looking at the film from the perspective of a Christian parent should be advised. The film is far less invested in the spirituality of the Jedi, but presents a more mature take on war and death than the rest of the Star Wars franchise.
With a lesser focus on the superhuman Jedi, the film gives little fuel for arguments over overtly spiritual matters. At the same time, it offers a greater emphasis on the experience of a common person. As a result, it raises meaningful topics such as sacrifice, celebrity, bravery, and so forth. From a Christian perspective, then, Rogue One is more or less whatever you choose to make of it. Hopefully, though, one chooses to at least take away these two core lessons: history is shaped far more by those history forgets than by those who it remembers, and much of our past is owed to those whose names we will never know, on this side of eternity.
Tags: Christian-Life | Current-Issues | Reviews-Critiques
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