Archive for December, 2016

Rogue One: Because We Deserve It (spoiler free)

Posted: December 22, 2016 by jperritt in Uncategorized

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6I wasn’t too excited about this film. To be more accurate, I was initially excited about this film, but I didn’t carry the excitement into the theater that I had with The Force Awakens. Some of that is due in part to that fact that I intentionally avoided any trailers or discussion about Rogue One. All of that to say, I wasn’t overly-excited about the latest installment in the Star Wars canon.

About halfway through the film, however, I became convinced that this movie is worthy of the cinematic world it’s a part of. I was changed from the skeptic who thought the filmmakers were just exploiting the Star Wars name, to a firm believer that this was a well-made film on many levels.

That being said, I listened to two other film critics on a podcast tear this film to pieces (that’s why they call them critics, right?). While I value the opinions of these cinephiles, who are often insightful, I couldn’t help but be a little put-off by their criticism. And, it was not simply due to the fact that I want to be right in my assessment of Rogue One.

I think I found the critiques off-putting because I sense some entitlement in our movie critiques, at times. Let me explain.

Subduing Cinema

When we think back to the creation mandate (Gen. 1:28) and the orders mankind receives to subdue the earth, we realize a lot of things. First and foremost, God is in charge because he is Creator. Second, mankind has a responsibility before God to care for the earth. Subdue does not mean “dominate” creation, rather we are to care for it. Tim Keller says that in the word “subdue” we see that the earth – even before sin entered – needed humans to care for it.[1]

All of that to say, mankind must subdue creation and movies are a part of that creation. Part of subduing cinema, is seen by filmmakers honing their finished product that makes it’s way onto the screen. For the Christian filmmakers, they must strive to produce a good film by subduing their product. This is where critique is important. The potential flaws of a film should be addressed so we can move forward and provide a better product.

And, while I think criticism is a needed element of the creation mandate, at times, there seems to be a fine-line between criticism and entitlement. Entitlement is saying, “I deserve a better product. You owe me the expectations I’ve attached to this film.” That is, we’ve become dissatisfied with the finished product because they don’t meet every criterion we attach to them. The root of many criticisms could possibly be traced back to a sense of entitlement.

Yes, Star Wars: Rogue One wasn’t a perfect film, but no film is. Of course it won’t be nominated for Best Picture, but it wasn’t trying to be. It seems that there are those critics who want to shove Rogue One into the cookie-cutter-hipster-art-house film and talk about it on a level it never aspired to. In some ways I just want to say, “Just watch the movie and enjoy it.”

Here are several thoughts to critique the critiquers and help you enjoy Rogue One.

The Acting

I don’t want to name names, but some of the actors in the previous installments of the Star Wars franchise weren’t the best. While the Star Wars prequels were horrific in the acting category, even the originals had some bland acting at times – that cannot be said of Rogue One. In fact, there was a scene between Jyn (Felicity Jones) and Cassian (Diego Luna) that was exceptional. While I was watching the scene I had the thought, “This caliber of acting has been absent in most Star Wars films.” It seems that some critics are overlooking this praise-worthy component of the film.

The Genre

Genre is an important factor when critiquing films. That is to say, when you’re walking into a science-fiction film like Rogue One, you must remind yourself, “This is a sci-fi film…not a comedy…not a drama…not a chick-flick.” Without a doubt, there will be elements of drama and comedy mixed in, but you must put both of those under the umbrella of ‘Sci-Fi’. Again, this film isn’t seeking to be an Oscar contender, so filter the acting and drama through the lens of sci-fi. That being said, the drama and acting of Rogue One are on par with other films that do seek to be Oscar contenders.

The Special Effects

The visuals of Rogue One are absolutely outstanding. Drop this film in the middle of the 1970s and people’s minds would explode like the Death Star. Humanity has been so bombarded by CGI in films that we’ve become the spoiled child on Christmas day wanting “The red truck! Not the green one!!!” Voicing disappointment over the special effects in most movies is definitely a first-world problem.

There have been those that critiqued certain CGI’d characters from the original Star Wars films who find their way into Rogue One. While I may concede their point on it being a little distracting, Christians should be amazed at the technology. The fact that filmmakers can now recreate humans (!!!) from a film that debuted in the 70s is phenomenal (and a little scary). Don’t lose the wonder of your Creator through the advancements in technology we find in films. Our entitled attitude can make us lose sight of this.

Life is Broken

This world is tainted with sin and that sin will find its way onto the silver screen. Not only will movies exploit sin, but every brand-spankin-new movie hits the screen…broken. No movie will ever be whole. The finished product could always be improved. Not only do we view movies that are broken and imperfect, but the movie-goers are also broken sinners living in a world that’s broken and often heart-wrenching.

While visuals of TIE fighters and X-wings move across the screen, millions of humans will never sit in a theater because they’re level of poverty scarcely provides a bowl of rice for the day. Theater-goers are flocking to the theaters with the cancer of their loved-one playing in the background of their minds. Racism, sex-trafficking, abortion, and suicide are daily occurrences in the broken world we live in. And, while that is the case, we can still go to the movies. The movie theater, in a tangible sense, is a refuge from this broken world. While pain, suffering, and sorrow are never far from us, we can escape to a world of entertainment.

Many years ago Peter Jackson spoke on this notion of escapism in the world of the cinema, and I think this aspect of movies is a grace from God. While it is important to think critically of film and highlight flaws at times, sometimes we need to just sit back and partake of the wonder that’s before us. We need to be amazed that a story like Rogue One can be scripted, acted out, filmed, and be sitting at the local theater waiting to serve us and give us enjoyment for two hours.

Sometimes it might be a good idea for Christians to savor the refuge offered by the cinema knowing it is merely a foretaste of the refuge to come.

[1]Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor.