Monday, January 9, 2017

Rogue One: Review of Reviews

Walter Chaw's review of Rogue One:
It's beautifully shot and its action is clear--testament to Edwards's bona fides as an action director. It's about self-sacrifice for the greater good and, as in when these films were at their best, it's about human relationships and how positive ones inspire the best in us. There's a speech somewhere in the middle where someone says that when things seem darkest is not when we should surrender, but when we should fight the hardest. The word "hope" is the one bandied about the most. We've elected Presidents on "hope." "Hope," as a concept, is what defines who we wish to be, even as all this venal division and hatred reveals who we are. Hope was the last thing in Pandora's Box; some say it was the only thing. The film sketches its world and ours in terms of light and dark and suggests that it's painful to do the right thing, but it's still the right thing. We're powerful when we aspire to transcend what we are most easily. The picture makes an entreaty to the angels of our better natures.

Armond White's review of Rogue One:
In a tired attempt at making this Death Star battle a quasi-political allegory, Disney’s screenplay hacks (including Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy) cajole the Occupy generation with the phrase “Rebellion is built on hope” — uttered twice, as if Star Wars had not been appropriated by Reagan’s defense department but was now in sync with contemporary student protest. But it’s a deceptive, Machiavellian mantra. Rogue One isn’t sophisticated enough to see past the phrase’s falsehood or adult enough to dramatize the current administration’s betrayal of “hope and change” and how its media sycophants eventually lost public trust in hope or change. Rogue One’s juvenile politics recall how, in Revenge of the Sith (2005), Princess Amidala (Natalie Portman) whimpered, “So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.” Liberal reviewers hailed the line as a rebuke of George W. Bush’s reelection.

SMG's commentary on both:
There's no real contradiction between White's leftism and his relatively conservative attitudes. 
White had extremely high praise for Edwards' previous (and similarly-themed) film, Godzilla. His criticism of Rogue One is that it isn't leftist enough; he views CG Princess Leia's appearance at the end as a straightforward endorsement of the liberal Rebellion To Restore The Republic.  
And I think that's a fair interpretation that simultaneously misses the key theme of exploitation of the authentic left by liberals. The nuance of the phrase "rebellions are built on hope" is that the rebels aren't the good guys. They are the Obamas of the galaxy, taking advantage of other people's hopes, building their republic on the backs of the people.  
White shares this interpretation, but simply asserts that the film doesn't do enough to criticize these caped elites, with their gold butlers.
To be very clear: Armond White's very accurate concern, with Rogue One, is that it is easily appropriated by the unselfaware liberals who still perceive themselves as the underdog heroes. 
As White points out in his review of Allied, there's a persistent liberal fantasy of being the last heroes holding back the nazi hordes. Some end-of-history horseshit.
So you need to be careful. Unless read carefully, Rogue One can be - and has been - facilely appropriated as a pro-Hillary narrative. A paperclip to add to the lapel of those who declare Trump the next Hitler and fantasize that roving gangs of redneck stormtroopers are going to lynch Muslim women in the streets. 
See Walter Chaw's review: "[Krennic is] engaged in a kind of political double-speak, in gaslighting--things that until this year were the scourge of banana republics and other backwards backwaters. [...] In a very real way, Rogue One (and much of Disney's recent output) is like Disney's WWII propaganda work. In terms you can understand: Stop it before it's too late. [...] The word 'hope' is the one bandied about the most. We've elected Presidents on 'hope.'"  
My italics. Chaw does not mean this in a critical way. He's straightforwardly praising the film as pro-Obama propaganda from the Disney corporation.
So Jyn - a former insurgent fighting imperialism in space-Iraq, currently an escaped convict - is held up as a Hillary figure. She's presumed to be an American democrat - because she's a girl, right? People assumed the same about Rey and FN: they must be liberals and democrats because of their identities. 
That is what White is responding to.

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