There’s a Reason the Technology in Rogue One is so Antiquated
It’s certainly intentional
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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Being left home alone and with nothing to do I went to see this dog. Unlike the first SW, there is no humanity in the entire cast. Harrison Ford, Mark Hammill, and Carrie Fisher all had stories and they quickly became people to us, the viewers. This bunch is cold and personality-less. Having seen the original “Star Wars” in San Fransisco the week it opened, I know what it was like to see the original. This ain’t it!
Opening night in Boston. It’s as good as being able to say I was at Woodstock. Yuge hit with the college crowd—no ten-year-olds at all that night. It was the only time I’ve ever seen an entire theaterfull stay in their seats through the credits, then stand for an ovation as the “special effects” names rolled. That probably hadn’t happened since King Kong in 1933, when effects demi-god Willis O’Brien managed to give a personality to a pile of bearskins and plasticine.
The later Star Wars entries attempting to fluff a really corkin’ space opera up into an interminable saga? Meh.
“It was the only time I’ve ever seen an entire theaterfull stay in their seats through the credits, then stand for an ovation as the “special effects” names rolled”
I saw the same thing in 2009 when “Star Trek” with Chris Pine was playing. The movie got a standing ovation…well, except for my wife and I who looked at each other wondering if we had seen the same movie. As far as I’m concerned, it was a big MEH.
I’ll still go see “Rogue One”. I always liked Star Wars, mostly the first three, though I have to say that the ending of “Return of the Jedi” has to be the cheesiest I have ever seen. But I go into “Rogue One” with my eyes fully open. I can only go up from here.
I saw the original Star Wars when it first opened, and did likewise with Rogue One, and was EXTREMELY happy each time. I agree with NavyMustang. Star Wars (later titled “A New Hope”) and The Empire Strikes Back were fantastic, as was the first half or so of Return of the Jedi – hey, twenty-something Carrie Fisher is a metal bikini garroting Jaba the Hut.
Rogue One is the movie pitched by the opening crawl of Star Wars. Congratulations to all those involved in making it.
Rogue One is Disney. Disney fired good American workers and replaced them with imported H-1B visa immigrant job thieves.
They overtaxed themselves, and underspent on defense.
There is a special place in my heart for the Original Star Wars because it came out when I was 13. It was the very first rated PG movie I ever saw (my parents were very religious and protective). I don’t think there is any way any sequel is ever going to be able to compete with that.
With that said, I did like the new movie and one of the first things I noticed was the retro technology. That was one of my (many) problems with episodes 1 through 3: They were prequels to the original, but the technology was more advanced than they would have available to them at a later date. That alone damaged the ability to suspend disbelief to a large degree. It would be like watching a movie set in 1957 but having the characters using modern tablets and smartphones. Just dumb.
Anyway, as soon as we walked out of the theater after watching Rogue One I mentioned to my wife that they hadn’t made the same mistake and the movie was that much better because of it.
No, Rogue One turns to the Second World War because it wants that struggle’s cultural cachet.
No, Rogue One turns to the current morass that is the American presence in the Middle East, casting the Rebellion as ISIS/Al-Qaeda terrorists heroically fighting the Empire as the occupying Americans stealing the region’s resources.
Using set design reminiscent of Episode IV for a movie set minutes before Episode IV is not a subtext that needs exploring.
Far more interesting would be examining those areas where Rogue One broke canon and why.
I saw the original Episode IV, known as “Star Wars” seven times in theaters. I was thirty-five at the time. I saw “Empire” three and “Return” once. I enjoyed “The Force Awakens” after the embarrassing episodes I, II, & III. Waiting on the DVD, I have hopes for “Rogue One”. The reviews are so mixed that it’s hard to form any opinion.
To nit pick something in the original post, the reason we don’t get Time Dilation problems in either this one or the original is that it’s a very difficult concept to grapple with, and Lucas simply decided that in his universe, it doesn’t exist. Which is what makes Star Wars a Space Opera and not serious sci-fi. Interstellar is probably the only movie I can think of that’s tried to deal with the time dilation issue seriously.
(Yeah, I know, the Star Trek universe ignores it too)
I agree. it should be noted that a well developed theme in Science Fiction writing is the alternate technology path. That is societies cann get into a technology rut from which they see no reason to leave and hence leave much unexplored.
A famous example in our own past is the use of viral phages instead of antibiotics. Huge progress was being made until penicillin came along, then the research stopped. We would have another medical world, a very different one, if that path was followed.