Here’s a pretty obvious (considering I’m writing this article) fact about me: I love Star Wars. I was just a kid when I first watched the Original Trilogy, so I was young enough that most of the experience is just a foggy memory. I can still remember how shocked I was after finding out that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, and how I just wanted to know what would happen next. Things spiraled from there, and I grew up playing with Star Wars Attacktix (action figures) and toy lightsabers.
So of course I was thrilled to go see Rogue One in theaters. My first impression of the film was that it was phenomenal. To be fair, it was partly due to my general bias towards the whole franchise (Jar Jar Binks excluded), but even now I think it was a solidly good film. I do struggle to see how viewers who haven’t seen other Star Wars films would be able to watch Rogue One and enjoy it (my own mother was genuinely confused about if Jyn and Rey were the same character or not), but within the Star Wars universe, Rogue One was a satisfying standalone.
Overall, the cast of Rogue One was so compelling that I’m still disappointed they won’t show up in more films. Chirrut Imwe alone was an amazing character, from delivering some great lines (“I’m one with the Force, the Force is with me”), to sitting on the body of a stormtrooper he’d just defeated, to his dynamic relationship with Baze.
But I was disappointed with Jyn Erso’s character, especially since she was one of the only women in the film. While she was marketed as the main character, and admittedly received the most screen time and fleshed out backstory, she was just uninteresting.
I’m also only able to think of a single moment in the entire movie where her character was necessary.
Excluding that only Jyn knew the code word for the Death Star plans (since it was her father’s nickname for her), every other action her character took could have been done by literally anyone else. It actually would have made more sense for Bodhi Rook to be the main character, since he defected from the Empire to warn the Rebellion about the construction of the Death Star. Galen Erso, Jyn’s father, could have even told Bodhi about how to access the Death Star plans.
This isn’t to say that Jyn was a terrible character, because she was perfectly fine. She simply wasn’t any sort of unique, irreplaceable character and honestly I spent most of her scenes wishing we were learning literally anything about Baze and Chirrut’s time as Guardians of the Whills or Bodhi’s career as a cargo pilot for the Empire or Cassian’s history with the rebellion or even just listening to K-2SO give dire predictions. It was frustrating, because I certainly didn’t want to feel completely apathetic about the only main female character in the movie. Especially since I was sitting on the edge of my seat for the rest of the movie. But even then, I couldn’t stop asking: Where were the other women?
Four women (Jyn included) had actual speaking lines where their faces were visible (I’m not counting a CGI cameo at the end of the film because it was creepy and the less said about it the better). The only other women who spoke were two pilots who fought at Scarif, but I honestly didn’t even realize they were women until after the film. Out of an entire batch of rebel volunteers to fight on the ground at Scarif, not a single one was a woman. None of Saw Gerrera’s rebels were women either. Why is it more unrealistic to have female soldiers in a rebel army than it is to have a rebel army in space?
While Mon Mothma had a few scenes, the one other major female figure in the Rebellion, Tynnra Pamlo, was only in one scene, when the rebel council debated attacking the Death Star. Of course, other than Mon Mothma and Jyn, all of the extras in the scene were men again. Are we really supposed to believe that the Rebellion was made up of these two women and Princess Leia?
The final woman who had a speaking part was Lyra Erso, Jyn’s mother. While she could have been an interesting character, she died in a futile attempt to prevent Krennic from taking Galen with him. It was an impulsive and ill thought-out death that felt as though the writers of Rogue One were simply tying up loose ends. While Lyra gave Jyn a necklace before she died, the necklace itself served no purpose. It would have made more sense if Lyra had run away with Jyn so Jyn could have grown up fighting with the Rebellion rather than being essentially blackmailed into it.
Now, I’m thrilled about the casting of Kelly Marie Tran for Star Wars Episode VIII, and since there were female extras present in The Force Awakens, I have high hopes for the next movie. It was great to see a diverse, talented cast of male heroes in Rogue One, so I can only hope that Star Wars will soon start to include an equally talented, diverse cast of female heroes in subsequent movies.