Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuted today to the delight of a fanbase who have hungered for more from George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away since J.J. Abrams’ ‘rebooted’ the series a year ago with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. With a multicultural, ragtag band of outlaws and castoffs, a female lead dominates the Star Wars universe for the first time… ever. But as millions watch, I’m often asked, Should I see it? Should I take my children? Read on, padawans, and all will be revealed … except spoilers.
In the brief prelude, Jyn Erso sees her father, a scientific genius working for the Empire, taken hostage as her mother is killed by an Empire leader, Orson Krennic. Fastforward fifteen years later: Jyn is a rebel imprisoned for her crimes, not her ideals. But when the Rebel Alliance breaks her out of prison to force her to reconnect with her father, and findout the plans for the hinted about Death Star, she reluctantly joins a ragtag band of guerrilla fighters and castoff heroes.
Joining Jyn are a shadowy Rebel Alliance spy named Cassian Andor; two ex-Jedi Temple guards, Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus; and a disgraced Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook, who hints that the plans for the Death Star include a backdoor to its destruction. When the group seeks out Jyn’s father, they come across Krennic, who is now commanding the Death Star. The film quickly accelerates into an actual “star war” as the fledgling Alliance tackles the Empire head-on, believing that the plans for the Death Star are the line drawn in the sand.
While all of this is exciting - and because it’s a prequel, we know how it ends - there is more going on here than a simple few hours of entertainment. Each of our heroes - including Jyn, Andor, Rook, etc. - has something in their backstory that they regret, some moments where they were not heroic but even evil. And yet, rather than painting the Star Wars universe in Skywalker good and Emperor evil, Rogue One shows how each of these people may be redeemed. It’s primarily through the Force.
Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is the prophet of the Force. A follower of Jedi beliefs but not a Jedi himself, Imwe is blind and yet he sees. He sees people for what they are and what they believe, and he believes in their best even when they don’t act like it. His influence, praying in moments of danger and loving those who are deemed unlovable, shows up in powerful evangelistic ways that help others believe. Imwe doesn’t see because he’s blind but he sees things others can’t - and we are able to see this world in a way that we didn’t see it before.
While skepticism toward the Force existed in the films before (here’s looking at you, Han Solo), in Rogue One, we have a direct interaction with what it means to believe - and to have one’s beliefs influence others. That’s a powerful thing to consider as we look at a group of people who aren’t afraid to die for what they believe - freedom, the greater good, the Force - that they recognize their place in the community’s overarching story. This is a film that will move you - even if you’re not a Star Wars fan - but it will also ask you to consider what you believe.
For parents considering the heaviness of a prequel (knowing where A New Hope picks up), this isn’t as violent as The Force Awakens or Revenge of the Sith. It’s emotionally heavy because we care about these characters, but their sacrifice is that of those at war, fighting for freedom, for good, for redemption.
For Christians, this movie can serve as entertainment, but it will open our hearts to make us live more boldly and seek out moments where we can serve God and each other.
May the Force be with you.