WARNING: Spoilers

If you’ve had a chance to see the latest installment in the Star Wars epics, you probably noticed that for intergalactic travelers, the technology in Rogue One is a bit rusty.

The rustic gadgets are intentional:

So why does Rogue One do this? Obviously it wants to hew to the original movies, mostly the first one and Empire Strikes Back, so the movie matches its technology with theirs. We get a nice echo of that late ’70s/early ’80s grungy technology vibe, as seen in, for example, Blade Runner and Alien. We don’t get screen-based keyboards, smartphone, or time dilation problems because the source material lacks them.

Beyond that formal reason, why would this fiercely retro approach appeal to today’s audience? And appeal it does, with box office above $64 million as of today, per IMDB.

We could ask them same question about similarly retro steampunk, as others have done. The answers include a desire to flee what some see as daunting techno-complexity in our present day, responding to feelings akin to Toffler’s famed future shock. But steampunk is a distinctly different era, anchored on Victorian Britain, not the 1930s, not dieselpunk. People like steampunk for many other reasons, including the fashions, and, I think, a strong sense of appropriated cultural smugness.

No, Rogue One turns to the Second World War because it wants that struggle’s cultural cachet. Evoking WWII sets the movie up for epochal struggles, a strong good versus evil theme, a seamy resistance plot, and especially massive amounts of sacrifice and death—the very opposite of steampunk. I wonder how this appeals to an America a decade and a half into the global war on terror. Was the studio hoping to tap into residual anxieties about distant enemies and the burdens of empire? Were they counting on war-weariness somehow fading away?

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