Gender Roles - Women
Gender Roles - Men
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Gender Roles - Women: 4 Stars
Jyn has the independence and the stamina of a hero, but for the first half of the film, she doesn't really have the heart of a hero. She's abandoned the Rebellion, for reason that we never fully understand, and seems to be concerned with little more than self-preservation. She's a skilled criminal who manages to make her way in an unfair world, but never considers dedicating her skills towards making that world a more just or tolerable place. In this respect, Jyn is something akin to a female version of Han Solo - courageous and clever, but also selfish and cynical. Given Jyn's complicated family history however, audiences should be able to forgive her initial apolitical stance and come to respect and love her. It isn't long, after all, before she reconsiders her role in the war between the Empire and the Rebellion, and becomes the champion she's meant to be.
Gender Roles - Men: 3 Stars
Rogue One takes place amid a period of intergalactic war and aggression, exactly the sort of landscape that calls for men to become heroes through violence and brute strength. But the Star Wars franchise has always done a commendable job of tempering those predictable archetypes with brave men who are not only willing to fight for justice and freedom, but who also yearn for peace more than personal glory.
The courageous men in Rogue One easily convince us that men can be sensitive, compassionate heroes. Galen Erso, Jyn's father, despite his unsurpassed expertise in designing weapons, never confronts the oppressive Empire with violence. To the contrary, he hopes to simply hide himself and his family from their influence, and when discovered and overpowered, he passively consents to their authority, only working to undermine them in secret.
Cassian Andor, by contrast, is an experienced captain who's committed his share of atrocities in service to the Rebellion, but he doesn't give us the impression that killing is something he takes lightly. When tasked with escorting Jyn Erso to Jedha, he finds himself in a growing conflict between following orders and listening to his own heart - and sparing the life of a dangerous man that could lead to the destruction of the Rebellion itself.
There are numerous other characters in Rogue One that leave us with this same impression - that men need not be savages to be effective fighters, and that a certain amount of emotion and self-doubt is both natural and admirable. They all display a certain level of reluctance, humility, and grace - understanding that although the war they're fighting may be just, it does not have to be without heart, compassion, or mercy.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 3 Stars
Jyn's appearance is always that of someone on the outskirts of society. Her hair is loosely pulled away from her face and her simple clothes are perfectly suited for clandestine operations. Throughout the film she's never glamorous and never even overtly sexy - and unlike the iconic Princess Leia who is occasionally remembered for extravagant hairstyles and gold bikini, Jyn is unlikely to be remembered for anything other than her brazen determination and sacrifice.
Unfortunately, we don't get much more than a glimpse into Jyn's complicated psyche. The scant dialogue between her and her father or between her and Saw Gererra isn't enough to tell us if she's ever felt truly loved, or if she believes she's worthy of the momentous role that's been thrust upon her. But we do know that when the responsibility falls on her, she quickly takes command and inspires others to follow. If nothing else, she clearly has enough confidence and strength of character to divine right from wrong, and to be willing to sacrifice everything in the name of all that she knows to be true.
Plot: 5 Stars
Jyn Erso may be a reluctant hero with somewhat mixed motivations, but there is no denying her role in inspiring and sustaining the Rebellion. Although she has little interest in the Rebels' cause initially (indeed, she seems to be driven only by a selfish curiosity about her father and an interest in avoiding an unpleasant future in a labor camp), she's quick to put her own needs aside when she learns what's at stake. When Jyn is first brought before the leaders of the Rebellion, she needs to be persuaded to help them - but by the time she returns, it is Jyn who is advocating to continue the fight against the Empire, while the others fall prey to fear and uncertainty. While Jyn's initial importance to the Rebel's mission is certainly due to her position as Galen's daughter, rather than skills or reputation that she's built and cultivated on her own, once recruited she shows herself to be as fearless and dedicated as Cassian, and able to hold her own against the Empire in ways that her father never could. As a result, Jyn will always have a place as one of the great heroes of the Rebellion.
Room for Improvement:
Character Development: 3 Stars
Jyn is given an intriguing backstory and goes through a remarkable transformation in this film - from someone who's given up hope and is satisfied to live life on the fringes of society, to someone who is willing to take on her oppressors openly and defiantly despite overwhelming odds. Perhaps the deepest disappointment of this film is the fact that this complex story isn't developed in a more meaningful way. Jyn eventually learns that Cassian had intended to kill her father and yet after only a brief confrontation, she's willing to put all of this tension aside in service to a greater, nobler cause. Similarly, Jyn's rejection by the man who raised her is touched on very briefly and her loyalty and confusion over who her father is and what he's become is never brought to the surface through compelling dialogue, flashbacks, or episodes of self doubt. In short, all of Jyn's personal relationships are subsumed by the mission to recover the plans to the death star. As a result, the things we know about her are little more than cold facts, never truly manifesting themselves as personality traits or turning Jyn into a fully-developed character. In the end, this lack of intraspection and dialogue make her tragic story far more historic than it is personal.
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