Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

NON SPOILER REVIEW

Ah, Rogue One. I’m all prepared. Read Rogue One Catalyst, the prequel book, rewatched A New Hope, stayed away from spoilers. Here we go:

Well, that was… something. I just saw the 6th best Star Wars film.

Rogue One, like its protagonist, is a movie seriously in need of a purpose. It’s a film that wants to be the first anthology film and tell a new story in the Star Wars universe, yet beats you over the head with cameos and characters from A New Hope we didn’t need to see, while completely ignoring its new characters and failing to give them any sort of meaningful depth. It’s almost amazing.

People complained at the “war movie stuff” was the problem, but I thought the war movie stuff wasn’t a problem at all, the real issue is that the movie wasted my time until about 80 minutes in when the actual plot started. It does some stuff to fill plot holes for A New Hope, but then it meanders around in so much unnecessary fluff. The only bits that got a rise out of me where the cameos, callbacks, and the last five minutes of the film, again: ironic for an anthology. But the part where I was bored until the third act is my main problem. It did establish mood in a way, but didn’t earn it. I was hoping for moments of oppression, a reason for these people to make sacrifices for freedom, but it was the same old, same old. Maybe it also didn’t help that I read the book, because they wasted both Krennic and Galen Erso, it’s almost incredible. They spend so much time on the set-up that the pay off comes too abrupt.

Maybe my assessment of it being the 6th best was a bit harsh. With all the problems I had with Force Awakens, and Revenge of the Sith, I was always engaged and the plot was moving forward. I don’t except much from a SW movie outside of being entertained. This wasn’t interesting to me.
And before someone said that it’s because I know too much: I saw it with Mr Casual fan number 1 aka my dad: he turned to me when the credits rolled and said, translated from German: “What was that supposed to be? I already knew all of this.”
There is pathos in the movie, but its all the third act. The trailer was good because it cut out the first 80 minutes or so.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s main problem is that it isn’t a Star Wars story, it’s THE Star Wars story, it’s A New Hope’s prequel, with all that would make this exciting excised to the end. As the servant of two masters it eventually succumbed under its own weight.

 

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Chapter 7: The 10 Year Mission – Year 2 (Part 1)

Not being able to choose between a wider universe and annihilation is no choice at all.

While the version on the blog will always remain free, please be advised that there is an updated version available on Kindle:

 

Chapter 7: The 10 Year Mission That Was Not One – Year Two (Part 1)

Prometheus’ second year of service saw the ship slowly leaving the thirty-lightyear radius around Earth and venture into the unknown. Emboldened by their successes in the previous year and the successful first contact with the Leonids at the very beginning of the second year, Spacefleet Command ordered a new course to be plotted: a straight line for 23 Librae, almost 84 lightyears away from Earth and beyond space normally patrolled by the Vaude themselves. It was here that the crew encountered their first trials, hardly imaginable just a few short months prior.

How would you describe the second year overall?

(Yuedan) An improvement over the first year of our mission, at least for me and my position.

More firefights then?

Also more fist- and knife fights. The Marines were very pleased to see some combat. Especially when we picked up on the Leonids again from the first year.

Is that when you visited their home world?

At the very beginning of the year, yes. It was one of those threats left over that hadn’t come up in a while but around March, about around our thirteenth month in space, is when the Captain decided to go to Leonid Prime. We had disabled a Leonid frigate about ten lightyears away from their homeworld. It turned out to be another test but this time we decided to dig in our heels and fight.

It was not a standard First Contact situation, right?

There is no standard First Contact. All first contacts are different because all aliens are different. Sometimes the best greeting is a punch in the nose.

In her mission logs, Captain Connors awarded you a citation for being instrumental in the Leonid first contact without ever mentioning you in any way beforehand in the ship’s log. Care to elaborate?

It’s because I’m the best at what I do and what I do isn’t very politically correct for our pseudo-Utopia back home.  

So you clearly weren’t commended for your diplomatic skills.

Of course not. That’s why I’m the tactical officer. Back when we started we had some great successes when I was finally allowed to punch or shoot the problem of the week instead of letting the others solve the problem scientifically or diplomatically. Aliens are just like humans in one way and one way only: they are the top dogs of their ecosystems. You don’t get to be a spacefaring civilization without being the most ruthless son of a bitch on your homeworld Either you wipe out a rival civilization or you subjugate other tribes of your own species. My ancestors fought for dominance over Europe as much as yours did over the Pacific. The nations that came out of the 21st century were the most powerful the planet had ever seen, as humans we have made our way to the top of the food chain. Had humanity not found out about the existence of aliens when we did, we would be fighting over dominance of the planet to this day. So when we disabled that Leonid ship I took great care to only shoot away out their engines, then grabbed a boarding team. I didn’t want to kill anyone, but the Leonids needed to be shown who was the most powerful.

Continue reading “Chapter 7: The 10 Year Mission – Year 2 (Part 1)”

Chapter 6: The 10 Year Mission That Wasn’t One – Year One

In which the crew is interviewed about the lackluster first year of their ten year mission that was twelve years long.

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Chapter 6: The 10 Year Mission That Wasn’t One – Year 1

 

Prometheus was initially commissioned for a 5-year mission to penetrate as deep as possible into the unknown regions of space as possible and make its way back. For that challenge the ship was equipped to handle all possible events to come, from battle, to diplomacy, cartography, and outpost construction, on paper both ship and crew were ready when the mission began, but interviews with the crew speak of a different picture. Interview questions will be in bold and answers in italics.

If you had to describe the launch, what was it like?

(Commander Arroway) Nightmare.

How come?

Well, everything was still in flux. The beam weapons weren’t field tested yet, scratch that most of the weapons systems weren’t tested yet. I mean it’s understandable with the railgun because that thing is just way to destructive for a solar system with less and less uninhabited space to use, but still. I went to the captain about two weeks away from launch and begged her to talk to the admirals and postpone our launch. She asked me if we could leave space dock and go to hyperspeed. I told her that we could. That seemed to be more than okay to her.

So the problems following launch were her fault?

I didn’t necessarily say that. The captain was just following orders at the time. The launch date was set 10 years beforehand and it had to be on the day that the original Prometheus experimental ship launched to its first hyperspace flight. Ceremony and celebrations had a lot to do with it, I suppose. Then again… I mean she was Jive’s granddaughter, and she was kinda obsessed with the ship. When Chief Stevenson hit the hull markings with the space dock inspection shuttle while in dry dock, she made him go out in a spacesuit to give it a touch up. I mean that might sound crazy for an outsider or an onlooker but the captain had a way like that. So yeah, she wanted that on-time launch as well. A few weeks later when we were under attack she considered turning the ship around to head home to finish installing and calibrating the weapons. Eventually she decided to do it in-flight.

Continue reading “Chapter 6: The 10 Year Mission That Wasn’t One – Year One”

Chapter 5 – The Making of A Crew

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Humanity knows the names of some of its greatest heroes to this day. Many of them were never the heroes they became in fictional retellings and folklore. It is often hard to believe for people to come to terms with the fact that every human, no matter their rank, position or achievement, are just people. Some people we consider great, others terrible, but they are as shaped by their experiences and the time and culture they live in as any of us.

Prometheus was in more than one way the first modern starship. Take away the deep space exploration mission and you are still left with the ship that pioneered everything we still see mirrored in Spacefleet to this day and that has been adopted by as many real militaries across the Local Quadrant as in the fiction we consume to this day. A starship command crew, or “hero crew” in the terminology of vidmaking and writing, to this day always consists of a captain, a first officer, a chief medical officer, a linguist, a pilot, a weapons expert, a chief engineer, and an alien exchange officer. Prometheus’ command crew was the first to feature this setup and the way this first crew interacted with each other and impacted historical events set a precedent for future procedure and future academy training, for good and for bad.

Jean Mikkelsen, professor for contemporary history at the Humbolt University of Berlin wrote the following after the Actium Crisis was resolved and Prometheus returned home for a major refit in 2179 in defense of the actions that Captain Connors had taken:

The idea that a starship crew and its captain don’t matter in the grand scheme of history, is an outmoded concept of 19th, 20th, and 21st century politics and warfare. Armchair commanders since the Crimean War could command major operations from the houses of power and dictate when and when not to fight and which decisions should be made. It is only with the advent of hyperspace flight and deep space exploration that we have come full circle in the way we need to conduct naval action and foreign policy. Without any sort of faster-than-light communication there is nothing we can do at home but have faith in the commander and crew of the ships that are out there to defend out interests and protect our way of life. The very thought of giving Captain Connors and her brave crew just enough rope to hang herself with is perverse.

Continue reading “Chapter 5 – The Making of A Crew”

Chapter 4 – The Compromises Of Making A Fleet

Chapter 4 continues the story of how compromises created a navy unfit for exploration

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Chapter 4 – The Compromises of Making a Fleet

After having now set up the background knowledge, it is now time to dive deeper into the material that was made usable over the last years. After my first archive searches, I was actually approached by the Head of Spacefleet’s Historical Preservation Society, retired Rear Admiral Jaylah Chen. Admiral Chen was present in the debriefings of all of Prometheus’ senior officers and crew after the ship was decommissioned. I asked her why they would knowingly put some truly damning evidence on record when they could have easily hidden it. She just looked at me, smiled, and said: “We keep secrets in order to protect our nation and our people. When the time comes to make things public and learn from the mistakes of our past we will do it. After head have cooled down of course.” I will comment on this at a later, more appropriate time when I give my final remarks, but I wanted you to keep this in the back of your mind while we move along with our little history lesson.

Spacefleet was founded almost directly after EarthGov itself, rising from the mid to late 21st century’s obsession with private space exploration and a deep pacifist streak in Earth’s general population after a decade long series of Resource Wars and final imperial grasps by the world superpowers. It is not hard to accept then that Spacefleet would a reaction to that, not unlike EarthGov. Though while EarthGov was created in response to a weak United Nations, Spacefleet was created as a purposefully weak military organization. To this day many historians like Wehler or Tenzin believe that events might have turned out different had First Contact be of a violent nature, but in between peaceful first contact and Earth’s latest series of devastating wars, Spacefleet was founded to united Earth maybe even more so than EarthGov itself. Navies have always been big meritocracies going back centuries because of the professionalism that even primitive blue water navies required, something that survives to this day in Naval tradition regardless of how professional the rest of the armed forces have become. But like I said, originally Spacefleet was not designed as a powerful military. There was no need after all. Human colonies were administered by EarthGov and part of the planetary federal system from the start. We had met one alien species and they turned out to be good people, the whole business about trying to quarantine humanity in their solar system because they pulled the trigger too fast on first contact notwithstanding. Additionally, EarthGov created the Earth Space Agency in order to foster peaceful exploration and colonization of the Solar system. Spacefleet was never more than a planning and development force until the year 2159. Crewed with less than 10.000 sailors in a time when human population of the Solar system started to reach the 10 billion mark. ESA’s corps of astronauts was similarly small, while part of a bigger organization. Even at its height in 2145 when ESA astronauts completed Gateway Stations 1 through 40 at the edges of the Solar system, the Agency never had more than 200 astronauts with less than 200 crafts. And while Spacefleet was organized around a small corps of tacticians and planners, who tried to figure out how to wage a hypothetical war in space and on foreign soil with the ESMC (Earth Space Marine Corps), they never operated more than two converted cargo ships. None of their ships were ever designed to fight a war, even though Spacefleet’s first three Chiefs of Staff always pressured the Senate to give them more funding.

Continue reading “Chapter 4 – The Compromises Of Making A Fleet”

Chapter 3 – The Prometheus Program and False Idols

The novel continues with chapter 3: ship naming contests, hard drugs, copyright, and… My Little Pony? Read more after these messages!

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Chapter 3 – The Prometheus Program and False Idols

While pop cultural osmosis is correct in communicating to the public that the Prometheus Deep Space Program was not under consideration until 2107, many modern retellings of the First Contact of 2072 do miss to communicate the role that Dr Louisa Jiwe played in its creation.

Writing this chapter was a complicated process for me as I am perfectly aware that, regardless of what I write in it, it will not come close to scratching the surface of Dr Jiwe’s public image. And it really shouldn’t since there is nothing wrong with the person itself. We historians, or at least I, just speaking for myself, do not have vendettas against the people we write about. except maybe for Christopher Columbus. William Wallace, Claus von Stauffenberg, Ronald Reagan, and Winston Churchill. Also Abraham Lincoln. Humorous comment aside, Jiwe is a victim of her own success in many ways and however great and accomplished the real person was, there really is no way but down in regards to a person’s legacy once they have been so mystified by an entire planetary population.

Jiwe is more often than not regarded as one of the greatest minds of her generation, if not of all time, in one long line with Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Tim Berners-Lee, and James Dewar. As the inventor of the hyperspace drive there is little to argue with and her contribution to the engine, both in theory and in building it, are never exaggerated in fiction. So this part of her biography is accurate and rarely, if ever, has been misrepresented in fiction. It is quite impossible, even for filmmakers. But filmmakers and storytellers have, and probably always will, consistently decided to make one of the greatest minds of human history into a flawless deity, when the truth is far different from the fiction, regardless of what movie, series, game, or book you consume on the subject matter. Jiwe was a forward thinking intellectual, Nobel prize winner, billionaire inventor, hyperspace theorist, astronaut, and space adventurer. She was not Earth’s lord and savior. She was a person, a flawed one at that. This is by no means going to be a biography of the famous inventor and futurist but any discussion on the conceptual flaws of the Prometheus program cannot fail to mention the foundation on which the project was eventually built.

Continue reading “Chapter 3 – The Prometheus Program and False Idols”

Chapter 2 – First Contact

In chapter 2 we will talk about First Contact and the effects it had on humanity… and how it scared the alien ambassadors for live. In that order.

While the version on the blog will always remain free, please be advised that there is an updated version available on Kindle:

 

Chapter 2 – First Contact

The story as was taught in school books until this year was one of remarkable coincidence. In the year 2072, Nobel prize winning engineer and StarExpress founder Dr. Louise Jiwe piloted her privately constructed spaceship Prometheus, the first of a line of ships to bear the name. For those who don’t remember their history, Prometheus was the man who, in Greek mythology, had stolen the fire from the gods and given it to humanity. Dr. Jiwe considered the name fitting, given that, should her tests be successful, she would open the stars for humanity with her newly constructed hyperspace engine. The science behind the engine, essentially cheating the laws of physics by creating a bubble to shield the ship from the effects of Einstein space having already been theoretically proposed five years before and having gotten her the Nobel prize for her work. Since she couldn’t ask anyone to take up the dangerous task she wasn’t able to take on herself, Jiwe piloted the craft itself from Earth orbit. At 09:34 GMT Jiwe activated the ships’ small reactor and engaged the hyperspace bubble. Her test flight through hyperspace only took her ten minutes but she exited hyperspace 10.000 kilometers away from Mars orbit. The test was a success.

Ten days later, after Jiwe had made the return journey and been given a hero’s welcome on Earth, a spaceship exited hyperspace outside of Earth orbit and contacted the United Nations in a clear English translation of a speech that would go down in history:
“People of Earth, do not be alarmed by our presence. We are the Vaude, we come from a star many lightyears away from here. Our long-range scanners detected a hyperspace flight from within your star system. We rejoice in welcoming Humanity into the galactic community of enlightened species. We come in peace and offer friendship.”

Continue reading “Chapter 2 – First Contact”