(15/08/16 Edit: Since the release of the original trailer which I talk about in this article, Rogue One has gone through reshoots and a new trailer has been released (see below) which is a massive improvement over the last, even hyping me up to the point where I’m excited to see the film now.
I do wonder how much of that is due to the main character being less prominent in favour of showing the other characters though. The lead doesn’t seem much different from the angsty super-hero we saw in the last trailer which bothered so many people, it’s just that there’s just less of her there to make me roll my eyes at this time around. Still, here’s hoping they addressed the character concerns and Rogue One becomes a film worthy of the Star Wars legacy. Original article follows after the trailer).
From Donnie Yen being Donnie Yen to the AT-AT dominating the skyline on the beach, everything in the new Star Wars: Rogue One trailer looked flashy and exciting.
Everything except the lead character.
A sullen, attractive young woman with a sassy attitude who plays by her own rules. A character shown taking down groups of stormtroopers without a problem and outperforming all of her male comrades in battle, despite being half their size and having no military discipline.
In other words, she looks like an archetypal example of a Mary Sue, ‘a seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities.’
I’ve already seen people jump to the defense, calling out people for criticising what little you see of the character in the two minute trailer. But if you only have two minutes to show off a character, then you very quickly get across the broad strokes of who that character is. Hollywood are the best in the business at doing exactly that. How long was Donnie Yen in the trailer, maybe five seconds? But you know from that tiny snippet exactly what to expect from his character. So I don’t think the argument holds much weight when trailers are designed to give you a taste of exactly what’s in the film.
I love science fiction, and I can happily consume space operas with blasters and star destroyers and completely illogical space battles with child-like enthusiasm. But badly written characters just destroy any sense of immersion. Stories are built on characters, and I’m amazed a franchise as huge as Star Wars would employ such a lazy approach to creating them. I doubt many people can remember the plot to Pirates of the Caribbean, but no one will ever forget the lovable but flawed character of Cap’n Jack Sparrow.
So after thinking this over, I couldn’t believe it when I saw headlines praising the lead female character of Rogue One and describing the film as ‘Giving Us Yet Another Feminist Hero to Root For.’ If you switched the sex of the character, it would be obvious to anyone how tediously written the character actually is. Writers took traditionally masculine values (fighting, courage, independence etc), transplanted them on to a female character with attitude, and then the media declared it a win for feminism (Hunger Games anyone?).
If I was a feminist I would be just-stepped-on-a-lego level of annoyed, because regardless of the character being a Mary Sue or not, the film is plainly just dressing the female lead up in men’s clothing. The same thing can be seen in the all-female Ghostbusters remake, and just take a look at how badly that car crash of a trailer is being received (and rightfully so). I can’t see Rogue One flopping to the same degree Ghostbusters will though, as not only is it propelled by the weight of the Star Wars franchise, but the characterisation will be buried under all the flashy lightsabers and explosions anyway.
But come on Hollywood, if you insist on buckling to the feminist agenda then at least put some effort in to your characters and stop boring us with vapid female leads that have all the depth of a paddling pool on a hot summer day.
Photo by Eva Rinaldi licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.