The question is still being asked among Star Wars fans today-Which is better, The Force Awakens or Rogue One? While both are good movies and I think we should be grateful Star Wars films that don’t suck are being made again, they are still being compared and the debate may continue even after The Last Jedi is released this December. Instead of hating on them for one reason or another, all fans should consider it a miracle that we can watch more than three Star Wars films over and over again without feeling like we’re in purgatory. I’m looking at you, prequels. Nonetheless, there are fans and haters of both The Force Awakens and Rogue One, possibly more of the latter for one of them. In this essay, I will be analyzing both films in various aspects to determine which is superior. Strap yourself in!
Plot & Structure
- Opening successfully establishes the main character, Jyn, and her conflict with Krennic
- A good enough hook to get us invested in the story
- Inexplicably cuts to Jyn imprisoned in an Imperial labor camp
- Briefly devolves into an editing mess, cuts from planet to planet to quickly establish how important Bodhi, the cargo pilot, is
- Rests on the Rebels making a deal with Jyn and gets the plot moving
- Feels like a full-blown war film
- The story and action set pieces are more interesting than the characters
- The events drive the story more than the characters
- Ex.: the group finds out where Jyn’s father is, so the plot demands they go there
- Unfolds in an interesting way with escalating events, culminating in a massive battle on the ground and in space
The Force Awakens
- Very strong opening
- Establishes the main conflict immediately
- Kylo Ren is already more intimidating than Krennic in the first ten minutes
- Introduces the characters in a smooth manner
- Brings back the fun of the original trilogy
- Takes the characters on their own personal journeys, but maintains that same feel of a war film
- The characters drive the story more than the events
- Ex.: Finn frees Poe and they escape, which leads to them crashing and Finn meeting Rey; his actions determine where he goes
- An overall investing story with an emotional final half hour
These are very different stories, and they both have their advantages. While Rogue One is an exciting war film, but people remember the action more than the characters. Action is not necessarily a bigger priority than the people. It has a couple of editing issues, whereas The Force Awakens flows smoothly. We knew how Rogue One was going to end-the Rebels will get the Death Star plans and everyone will most likely die. We didn’t know what was going to happen in The Force Awakens. You may have predicted that Han was going to die, but nobody suspected that he is Kylo Ren’s father. Who knew that Rey would turn out to be sensitive to the Force? The Force Awakens possesses the element of surprise while Rogue One is predictable, and it is more memorable.
The Force Awakens
- Each character stands out in their own unique way
- Poe is a fearless pilot who will help innocent people
- Finn wants to get away from the First Order, but will be brave when he has to
- Rey is a scavenger who is practically starving, she wants to fly more, and she wants to help BB-8
- Kylo Ren is powerful, merciless, malevolent, but conflicted
- Everyone is developed, compelling and three-dimensional
- Jyn is the only one you can really care about
- She is the only one who gets any development through scenes rather than just dialogue
- Cassian is a Rebel captain and intelligence officer
- Bodhi is a defected Imperial cargo pilot
- Chirrut and Baze are badasses, former guardians of the Jedi Temple on Jedha
- Krennic is the power-hungry director of the Death Star
- Nothing more to any of them
- Underdeveloped, hollow, and one-dimensional
- Darth Vader was brought back in spectacular fashion
The characters can make or break a film. If they aren’t compelling, a major part of the movie has failed. It’s nice that Chirrut and Baze look like badasses when they take out troopers, but that doesn’t make them compelling characters. Underdeveloped characters we can’t emotionally identify with hinder the movie as a whole and lessen the experience. We are told, not shown, what are meant to be pivotal background points for the main characters, such as when Cassian says, “I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old.” How did he join the Rebellion? What happened to him when he was a kid? To director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, none of these mattered. Even though we care about the story and what will happen in the end, we don’t fully care about the characters. It does not leave as much of an impact as it should when everyone dies. Thankfully, Darth Vader comes back and gives us two of the best scenes in the movie, one of which is what people remember and talk about the most. Had he been given more screen time, it might have made up for how poor the characters are.
It is the exact opposite for the characters in The Force Awakens; they are more developed and fleshed-out than those in Rogue One. We care whether or not everyone will survive. Remember how concerned people were for Finn after Kylo Ren slashed him in the back? Everyone has so much more to their characters than their roles. Name one personality trait of Chirrut, Baze, or Bodhi that actually contributes something to the story.
Although comparing Han’s death to those of Rogue One‘s heroes is unfair given that fans got to spend three movies with him, there is a far stronger emotional impact when Han dies than when any of the main characters in RO bite it. I dare you to find anyone who cried when Jyn, Cassian, K2, Chirrut, Baze, or Bodhi died. Even if anyone did, it’s a fact that Han’s death has more weight and hits the audience harder. Remember how people cried and screamed out loud when Han died? There was none of that with Rogue One.
- Feels like a full-blown war film
- Factions other than the main heroes are involved in every major action scene, Rebel forces join every fight
- Gigantic climax that has large numbers on both sides fighting each other
- The action is on a large scale
- Fun to watch
The Force Awakens
- Still feels like a war film while focusing on the heroes’ personal journeys
- Exhilarating and creative action
- The heroes are more developed with every action scene
- Ex.: Rey and Finn’s friendship grows stronger as they overcome personal obstacles together, especially when he rescues her from Starkiller Base
- Lightsaber fight packed with emotional conflict and moments
Yes, Rogue One gets credit for being the first complete war film in the franchise. Yes, it is fun to watch all the huge action. However, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Every Star Wars film has big battles between the armies. What makes the sequences in Rogue One so special?
The fighting in The Force Awakens is more creative. You can find elongated space battles in almost every Star Wars film, but when was the last time we saw a ship flip over and the gunner takes out a pursuer, or when an X-wing took out a dozen TIE fighters single-handedly? You cheer for that kind of thing, and it stands out in your mind.
The Force Awakens
- Nearly the entire cast does a wonderful job
- Daisy Ridley and John Boyega shine in their big breaks
- Adam Driver portrays Kylo Ren’s menace and terror excellently
- Domhnall Gleeson is over-the-top as General Hux
- Oscar Isaac delivers a good performance
- Harrison Ford brings back the greatness of Han Solo
- Felicity Jones stands above the rest of the cast as Jyn
- Best scene is her discovering Galen’s message; best acting in the entire movie
- Most of the actors are reserved, give adequate performances
- Mads Mikkelsen of all people doesn’t show as much range as he could
- Ben Mendelsohn as Krennic is also over-the-top, but not as much as Hux
Had Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, and Riz Ahmed been given more to work with, maybe they could have given better performances outside of shooting things or flying. For the most part, the cast of The Force Awakens outshines that of Rogue One.
Not much can be said when comparing the visual effects of the two films. They are both top of the line, some of the best in the industry. The role of CGI is to make the audience believe what they are looking at is real, whether it be a chase through wreckage in the desert or a tidal wave of earth. Nearly every single effect in The Force Awakens and Rogue One achieves this. However, there are two effects in the latter that immediately take the audience out of the moment.
The film’s use of CGI to recreate Tarkin and Leia are out of place and invoke a sense of discomfort. Whenever Tarkin is on the screen, you can’t help but know you are looking at something that came out of a computer because you know his face isn’t real. At the very end of the film and we see Leia’s face, she looks too glossy. The first time I saw Rogue One and she came on screen, I only slowly clapped at the end because that moment left a bad taste in my mouth. The effects used to recreate Tarkin and Leia failed to do their job and hinder the movie that much more.
From what I’ve seen, the majority of people always say Rogue One is better than The Force Awakens. This may be because it has more action and they call TFA a “remake” of the original film, and they see that as a gigantic flaw that causes them to hate it. Before I close, allow me to explain why it is not a remake.
Just because a movie follows most, not all, of the major story beats of another, that does not make it a remake. The Force Awakens is not a remake of Star Wars. This is not a direct repeat of the story. It is a continuation. It is a sequel, not the retelling of how Luke discovered his destiny and destroyed the Death Star. Before The Force Awakens was released, expectations were so high that people were expecting a perfect movie, and anything less would be deemed awful. Conversely, Rogue One seemed to satisfy almost everyone. The Force Awakens is a great movie, but it is not perfect. It works for what it is. Rogue One is good, not great. When you examine both films to this extent, it is clear that The Force Awakens is superior to Rogue One.
Thank you for reading this! I put a lot of work into it, and you taking the time to read it means a lot! Be sure to check back on September 1st when I begin my series of Star Wars reviews leading up to The Last Jedi! You can follow me on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay updated on all my content!
Special thanks to my buddy, Nathan, for making the graphic for this article! Follow him on Twitter @Natefurry!