Overall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a pretty good flick. As the fourth movie in the series and the second in the past two years to feature the Death Star or a Death Star-like-doomsday-device, it had to separate itself from the others while still retaining that Star Wars feel. Mission accomplished. It’s a fun action-adventure romp full of fun characters, great action and a descent script.
It is, however, not a perfect movie. The first half is kind of a jumbled mess and there are plot threads that don’t really go anywhere. The re-shoots are very apparent as many of the moments and lines from the trailer don’t show up in the movie itself. The two main characters: Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, are somewhat bland, despite the actors themselves giving good performances. But all of these issues could have been solved if the writers had made just one major change.
Jyn and Cassian should have been the same person.
What I mean is that the character of Cassian was not needed and all of his dialogue and backstory would make more sense coming from Jyn.
[ Spoilers Ahead ]
For instance, there is a line in the movie where Cassian says to Jyn: “I’ve been fighting in this revolution since I was six-years-old.” or something to that affect. Being that the movie opens with Jyn having her family taken from her and subsequently being brought into the revolution by Saw Gerrera at about six-years-old, this line would garner more sympathy from the audience coming from her, because we witnessed how it went down. Instead, it comes from a character that we hardly know, and at this point in the movie haven’t even decided if we liked or not. A line that could have been a sympathetic character moment just becomes expository background noise.
Having more characters in a story is a weakness if it means having to water down other characters. A movie is only so long and that means there is only so much time we get to spend with each character. The more we get to know and sympathize with a character the more [SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS] tragic it is when they meet their demise. The more we, as the audience, would feel it and view, not just their death as a tragedy, but their lives. At the end of Rogue One, instead of feeling a powerful emotion for one character, our sympathy is split between the two of them and is far less potent.
The issue with the movie jumping back and forth in the beginning could have been solved by eliminating this one superfluous character. Imagine if the movie jumped from Jyn being a child to her offing some guy in an alleyway just for thinking about snitching. That one scene would have given her some much-needed character depth and shown the audience just how much she had grown and changed since we’d last seen the character. Instead, it is Cassian who does this in the beginning of the movie. When I saw that in the movie my only thought was: “who the fuck is that?” “Is he gonna’ betray everyone?” It left me with a bunch of questions then promptly jumped to the next scene. What could’ve been a badass introduction to a character that we were already invested in was wasted on a character that we didn’t know.
Combining these characters would have not only cut down on the confusion of the beginning of the movie, but could have eliminated some of the plot threads that went nowhere. Like Cassian’s attempt to assassinate Jyn’s father. How much more interesting would it have been if it had been her sent to assassinate her own father and had to make the decision of just how far she was willing to go for the rebellion? It also would have eliminated the confusing plot thread of Cassian having to find Jyn, so that they could find Saw, so that they could find Jyn’s father, so that they could find the plans to the Death Star. Not to mention eliminating that cheesy death fakeout then miraculous reappearance just in a nick of time at the end.
If Jyn didn’t have to split screen time with Cassian than not only would it have given the character more agency, but it would have allowed her to become the answer to the Mary-Sue that was Rae from the Force Awakens. It would have been nice to see a complex female hero on screen that made decisions and didn’t have to share her screen time with a counterbalancing male equal. With this one simple change a character that was passable could have become iconic and a movie that was good could have become great.
The moral of Rogue One is never have two characters where one will do.