It was inevitable that with something as culturally dominant as Star Wars, people would be falling all over themselves to share their thoughts. We’re not immune to takes here, but everything on this list contains something that will melt your face off from the sheer heat of the take, or crack your brain in two from trying to wrap your head around its awfulness.
I’ve linked them all so you know they’re real, but I’m begging you not to click. Because a) it gets them the attention they want and b) you’ll die.
Publisher: Eleven-Thirty Eight
Representative Quote(s): Look, the quotes aren’t the best thing about this. It’s the headline. But I do like the idea that there’s anything subtle in Star Wars ever.
Jay Shah: One of the things I like to point out is that while Star Wars was always a political allegory — there was something Nixonian about Palpatine and the Empire in the OT — it’s never explicit.
What’s Going On Here: This is my favorite thing ever published. I quote that headline daily. I want to marry it and have its little take babies. Should the Empire be a white supremacist organization? I don’t know what that even means. What’s the point of this hypothetical? Is it saying that the writers are cowardly if they don’t make the comparison between Star Wars and our world explicit? Or that it ruins the “escapism” of Star Wars to read politics into it? It’s a giant, long, ponderous discussion the authors have and I’m still no clearer on the point of it. Because, at the end of the day, people are going to see what they see and Star Wars has long been a place for projecting negative qualities on the Empire and positive ones on the Rebellion.
Publisher: Film School Rejects
Representative Quote(s): Well, the slugline, “Star Wars shows signs of being stuck in fan-fiction mode, exploring its own backyard” is awful. As is this:
If men of these talents can make even the most unlikely premise a hit, why should they play it safe with a fan-fiction premise like showing us events in Han Solo’s life that we’ve likely been teased with?
What’s Going On Here: I actually don’t think the substance—that more Star Wars movies should explore things further away from the original trilogy—is that bad. I would, however, like to burn to the ground the use of “fan fiction” as a slur.
Representative Quote(s): It’s a list of Oscar nominations that the movie could get and some history of the categories and Star Wars. Here’s the answer to the question in the headline, which amounts to “Maybe”:
All of that is on the table but we’ll just have to see where the chips fall. The 10-nomination tally of “Star Wars” will no doubt remain out of reach, but could “Rogue One” outmatch “The Force Awakens” with Academy members? It’s certainly possible. At the end of a rough year, escapist fare that delivers is sure to resonate.
What’s Going On Here: Let’s say you’re the awards editor for a trade publication dying from not being relevant and the biggest movie of the season is one from a genre that traditionally only gets music and effects award nominations, what would you do? You’d grasp for any angle you can and then not even provide a strong answer to a question no one was asking.
Publisher: The Weekly Standard (in 2002!)
Representative Quote(s): Look up.
What’s Going On Here: Bill Kristol’s happy to find someone to justify his attraction to fascism. And it only took him 14 years after it was published to find this take.
Actually, during Rogue One’s interminable let’s-fly-to-another-planet-then-cut-back-to-Tarkin second act, I kept on imagining what Rogue One would be if the same exact cast had just re-performed A New Hope. Like, if Felicity Jones was playing Luke Skywalker, and Diego Luna was playing Princess Leia and well, I guess, the gender-flipping game gets hard there. Because like Force Awakens, this movie has one strong female lead and one strong supporting female and a lady pilot. But let’s say just for fun that Mads Mikkelsen played an andro Han Solo hot for both Jones-Luke and Luna-Leia, and Donnie Yen was Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Alan Tudyk was a more catty C-3PO, and Forest Whitaker played Uncle Owen, and Jiang Wen played Biggs Darklighter, and Biggs would have a much bigger role, because no way they would they cut the Tosche Station scene today. Rogue One is basically one long extended Tosche Station scene: The whole point of a Macguffin is that it doesn’t really matter but here we are with a whole movie about the secret history of the Death Star plans (coincidentally here’s my spec script for Letters of Transit: A Casablanca Story).
(When people play Hamlet, nobody thinks they should do a whole play about Hamlet with the pirates, or what life was like when Hamlet’s dad was King.)
But there was a whole play about Rosencranz and Guildenstern, you moron.
What’s Going On Here: Whatever the point of this was—and it’s one of many, many takes about how unoriginal Rogue One is, like everyone was afraid to be late to that party after The Force Awakens—is lost in this extended fantasy sequence in the middle of it. This take is so long and statements like “I know Jyn’s a different character and I’m not saying everyone needs to be the same” seem to contradict the headline completely. It’s also full of the most depressing parentheticals I’ve ever seen:
(The film actually gets much better if you imagine Cassian Andor is a Westworld host.)
The Publisher: The Hollywood Reporter
Representative Quote(s): Not a pure take, since it’s a review, but a lot people noticed this wonderfully awful nugget tucked right in there:
What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega’s Finn in The Force Awakens) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm.
What’s Going On Here: Where to begin. Why does a film need a “strong and vigorous male lead?” Is that the only kind acceptable? If this was really just meant to say that none of the male actors are as good or charismatic as in other movies, just say you didn’t like their acting. No, this one basically says the movie’s failed because the men aren’t the right kind of men.
Publisher: The New Yorker
Representative Quote(s): Our friends at Deadspin covered this plenty, but here’s the one most likely to make our readers set themselves aflame.
There’s none of the Shakespearean space politics, enticingly florid dialogue, or experiential thrills of the best of George Lucas’s “Star Wars” entries (“Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”).
What’s Going On Here: This isn’t a review, it’s a troll masquerading as one. In that sense, it is very successful. And kudos on being one of the first outlets to decide “Fuck it, let’s just say everything guaranteed to whip nerds into a frenzy.” Congrats for ruining nuanced reviews of this movie’s flaws with your utterly insipid writing, The New Yorker..
Representative Quote(s): Emphasis mine on this one:
But that doesn’t mean Rogue One characters Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) constitute Star Wars’ first on-screen gay couple—especially not in a series of movies that tend to focus on friendship and family, and barely hint at romance.
What’s Going On Here: First of all, this take has three different headlines and all imply that thinking that characters are gay is a bad thing. (Other incarnations: “No, these ‘Rogue One’ characters are not necessarily gay” and “Listen. We need to talk about those rumors that two big ‘Rogue One’ characters are gay.”)
Also, a few points about the quoted section: A) Luke decides to help Leia in A New Hope because he has the hots for her B) Han and Leia’s relationship is a major fucking part of the next two movies C) Attack of the Clones ends with a wedding D) Love is stated to be the thing that corrupts Anakin E) Padmé and Anakin’s forbidden love is a huge part of the movies F) Finn asks Rey if she has a boyfriend. Romance is all over these fucking movies. That’s an insane reading of Star Wars.
The writer even concedes that it’s totally feasible and fans are free to believe whatever they want. So what was the point of this? To shame fans for thinking there was a gay couple? To shame other writers for talking about it? There is a real conversation to be had about why this still hasn’t happened and why Baze and Chirrut have more chemistry and history than Jyn and Cassian, whose relationship was forced on us. This is not that.
Representative Quote(s): So, the original version of this take forgot that Bothans are mentioned as being spies the discovered the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi and not the people who found the plans for the original Death Star in A New Hope, and based his entire take on how Rogue One omitted any alien heroes, which eventually necessitated this showing up in the middle of the article:
Now, it’s true that “Rogue One” is a prequel to “A New Hope,” not “Return of the Jedi.” (Mea culpa for my error in the first version of this column.) But if Bothans are really such master spies, why can’t they come along on the mission? Or, if we don’t trust the Bothans, why can’t some other nonhuman species do?
Unfortunately, the wrirer couldn’t take any of this back, so about 80% of an article supposedly about no main characters being aliens is focused ENTIRELY ON BOTHANS:
Fans of what is clumsily called the “Star Wars expanded universe” know that a Bothan is a furry, mammalian being, a species that, for reasons not entirely clear, happens to excel at spying. The thought of finally seeing a Bothan on the screen, of having a “Star Wars” problem actually solved by a nonhuman being ...
But no. No Bothans died to bring the rebels the information. There are aliens we might spot here and there, but if any one of them is supposed to be a Bothan, nobody tells us. All of the heroes are human. (Plus one droid.)
Why does any of this matter? Because the other conceit of the expanded universe is that the galaxy far, far away is full of all manner of intelligent life. But the Empire practices pure speciesism. All the posts of any importance are reserved for humans.
What’s Going On Here: PLEASE TALK ABOUT ANYTHING OTHER THAN BOTHANS, THEN.
Punlisher: The Federalist
Representative Quote(s): The description under the headline has gone with “Why would someone willingly help build the Death Star? The answer may help us understand why the Founders didn’t immediately abolish slavery” causing me to involuntarily set fire to my hair. But, oh god.
In both Galen’s cooperation with the Empire and the Founders’ toleration of slavery when writing the Constitution, the pursuit of justice required that protagonists understand and respond to the particular situations in which they found themselves. They had to pursue justice within the restraints placed upon them, so that the best possible outcome for justice could come about.
Had Galen refused to cooperate or killed himself, the evil plans of the Empire would have gone on. The rebels would not have been able to destroy the Death Star. Many lost their lives, but fewer were lost because Galen made himself integral to the building of the weapon.
Had the Founders tried to eradicate slavery while writing the Constitution, the evil of slavery would have been entrenched into a constitution that would have been unassailable. Many continued their lives in bondage, and many died because of this atrocity, but fewer were bound because the Founders saw that tolerating it and placing limits on it for a while would lead to its eventual destruction everywhere.
These measures may seem unsatisfactory to us, many generations later. It may not seem like enough. And indeed, slavery got worse before it was eliminated.
What’s Going On Here: So much. First of all, I’m actually pretty certain a lot of Rogue One is meant to show people making an ideological stand even if they’re not certain it’s going to make a difference because some things are wrong. Second of all, I’m very certain most of the Founding Fathers weren’t thinking this deeply about slavery as much as they were enjoying the fruits of it. And third of all, what the hell are you doing defending not getting rid of slavery?
Someone saw a chance in Rogue One to trot out some very bad Founding Fathers apologia and took it. I almost admire the go-getting spirit. But then I have to go put out my burning hair after reading the actual text.
Representative Quote(s): OH MY GOD.
And speaking of narrative laziness, there is no more lazy an action movie crutch than minor characters bravely committing suicide to sacrifice themselves for the major ones. There’s so much heroic suicide in Rogue Onethat it almost feels like ISIS propaganda. Just replace “the Force is with me” with “Allahu Akhbar” and you’re there (if you’re groaning at this, just wait until the “The Empire Is Trump!” thinkpieces hit). These characters suicide with such small provocation that you get the sense that someone would self immolate just to keep Jyn’s coffee warm
Above all though, Rogue One is so reverent to the larger Star Wars universe that it can’t become its own thing. It’s fan fiction.
What’s Going On Here: This is a vile take. I could go into all the ways that a group of people with a specific goal that happens to include a high possibility of their own death isn’t the same thing as—Jesus wept—ISIS. Or the ways in which the Empire is the one using terror as a weapon. Or how he’s cheapened all these characters. Or even the very basic answer to the headline, which is “Disney made it, so it’s definitively not fan fiction.” But this stands on its own as such a miserable take that I never want to think about it again.