I was there when it all began.
It was 1977, and there was a buzz about a movie that was a science fiction story about a young man named Luke Skywalker.
He ends up with a robot that carries the plans for a huge battle station called the Death Star. From there, Luke is drawn into the battle between the Empire, which built the Death Star, and members of the rebellion, who have the plans.
There is a bad guy named Darth Vader, and some weird religion called the Force. When I sat through that movie, it was done. I was hooked.
What followed were a total of six movies made by creator George Lucas, but in these days there is a change. Lucas sold the franchise of Star Wars to Disney. Now Disney is producing new movies.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the first film that does not follow what the other seven have done. What the movie does is tell the story of what took place before that first Star Wars movie.
This movie tells the story of how the rebellion got the plans to the Death Star.
It involves a young woman named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), who is first shown as a child when her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), is visited by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).
Krennic is director of a special project that the Empire is working on that will make the planetary systems fall into line doing the emperor’s bidding.
That project is the Death Star, and Galen is an expert in the weapons system that will be used to give the Death Star its power.
When Galen refuses to help voluntarily, Krennic kills Jyn’s mother and imprisons her father.
Jyn hides away from the confrontation and is left alone on the planet. Eventually, she is found and raised by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), who will become a rebel against the Empire.
When we see Jyn next, she is handcuffed on a transport. Through the intervention of the rebellion, she is freed and tasked with the mission of getting the plans for the Death Star.
The journey of finding them takes her back to Saw. It is from there that we witness the unfolding of how it is that the rebellion comes to have the plans to the Death Star, which includes many close calls and firefights.
I loved this movie. It does something none of the latter-day movies did, which is fit well within the canon of the larger whole.
For those of us who invested much of our time and money in the canon of Star Wars, that is important because most of the latter-day movies have felt like they were nothing more than opportunities to sell toys.
A good example of this is Lucas’ three movies, which began with “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.”
That movie only seems to exist to hook kids into nagging mom and dad to go down to the local Toys “R” Us and buy up all the Jar Jar Binks dolls that could be found.
“Rogue One” takes seriously the fact that this is part of a larger whole and attempts to advance the lore of that larger whole.
Director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy put up on the screen scenes that advance the knowledge base of those who come to see the continuation of a loved narrative.
The movie is not perfect. The first two parts of the story take a bit of getting used to in order to understand what is going on with the story.
But the last part of it is as good as “Star Wars IV: A New Hope,” which this movie acts as a prequel. It fits well into place when you look at the two joined together.
As to how this possibly relates to the church, I found the character, Chirrut Imwe, (Donny Yen) as someone to consider.
Chirrut is blind, but he has great fighting ability and power. The line he uses repeatedly is, “I’m one with the Force. The Force is with me.”
What he is speaking about is the power of the Force, which is the binding power of the universe within the Star Wars canon.
At the time, the Force is not clearly evident. Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) is supposedly the last person who uses the Force and he uses it only for evil.
Chirrut uses the Force and his repeated mantra as a means of reassurance that he is not in this alone.
This act declares that no matter what happens, “I am not afraid, for the power of the universe is with me.”
This use of that mantra can be a point of intersection between the message of Christ and those who seek reassurance.
The writer of Hebrews declared that Christ would never leave us or forsake us. Therefore we may say, “I’m one with Christ. Christ is with me.”
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy
Cast: Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera), Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso).
The movie’s website is here.