* (December 2016) "WHO'S YOUR DADDY?": A LIST OF 12 "ROGUE ONE" CINEMATIC ANCESTORS
* (October 2014) GULLCOTTAGE / GRINDHOUSE "4 Fs": FIFTY FAVORITE FRIGHT FLICKS.
* (April / May 2012) 20/20 FUTURE VISION: THE 20 BEST SCI FI FILMS OF THE PAST 20 YRS.
* (Dec. 2011 / rev. Nov. 2016) THE
12 (24 ALTERNATE) DAYS OF CHRISTMAS - PT. 1
* (Sept. / Oct. 2011 ) "REAL STEEL"'S REAL DEAL - RICHARD MATHESON: FUTURE VOGUE
* (May / June 2011) REIGN OF THE SUPERCOMPUTER
We can relate to being James Bond fans since childhood, but not being aware until we grew older how Ian Fleming based his character more on the model of the rough-and-tumble American gumshoe (cut from the Hammett / Chandler cloth) than on the more elegant British “clublands” hero like Bulldog Drummond or Sherlock Holmes.
Shakespeare via sci fi: STAR TREK: Shore Leave ('66), SPHERE ('98), EVENT HORIZON ('97)
We can relate to being life-long STAR TREK fans, but (once again) not learning / realizing until we grew older, after becoming more exposed to classic literature, that one of our favorite original TREK episodes, “Shore Leave”, was a clever reworking of Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST. Years later Michael Crichton’s SPHERE (novel '87 / film '98) and Paul W. S. Anderson’s EVENT HORIZON (’97) would similarly borrow narrative and thematic “donor cells” from that same Shakespearean gene pool. Oh, and today we still look back with equal bemusement and painful embarrassment when, as fans of film composer Jerry Goldsmith from an early age as well, we one day (waaay back when) heard "The Rite Of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky and said aloud, “Why is this guy trying to rip off Jerry Goldsmith?”. Yeah, we still wince at that one. All of which brings us to the STAR WARS films in general, ... and ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY in particular.
Few films have reworked classic literature, religion, and good ‘ol fashioned pulpish yarn spinning as cleverly as the STAR WARS series. In fact since the first cinematic entry in 1977, “A NEW HOPE” (though some of us will forever refer to it as “the original STAR WARS”), those grand scale, operatic, “We're-making-the-jump-to-light-speed-so-shut-up-and-strap-yourselves-in!” action / adventures taking place “A long time ago” in that “Galaxy far, far away”, have been so deliberately pulp novel-ish you can damn near at times see and smell those wonderful yellowing pages from which the films take so much of their tonal (and visual) inspiration.
We watch Han, Luke, Leia, Vader, Chewie, Rey and Finn, … and now those newest kids on the block, Jyn and Cassian. But we see those wonderfully cheesy paperbacks we used to pick up at the library book exchange, farmer’s market, Goodwill store, or local mart ... where you'd get ‘em four for a buck because they'd torn the covers off. Momentarily we're transported in time to the back seat of Mom and Dad's car during a long trip, or we're snuggled up on the couch with those pages folded back on a Sunday afternoon too rainy to play outside. We catch a whiff of that cheap glue and card stock they'd use to hold those books together. And it's then we remember where the STAR WARS films really come from.
Perhaps only behind myth, religion and political history, the biggest influence on STAR WARS canon is (arguably more than the BUCK ROGERS / FLASH GORDON-esque aspects) the series’ indebtedness to the pulpish war yarn. Not the modern war film, mind you. Not the realistic PLATOON, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA depiction. But the more larger than life, “good guys vs. the bad guys”, pulp genre spin. Not so much BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY as THE RAT PATROL. Less like FULL METAL JACKET or even FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, and more tonally akin to say VON RYAN'S EXPRESS or KELLY'S HEROES.
From Darth Vader’s “coal kettle” helmet, to Kylo Ren's medieval knight design. From the Stormtroopers (in name, appearance and action) resembling the German foot soldiers of World War I and II, to TIE dogfights and Death Star runs being patterned after air combat footage, the STAR WARS films have very often taken their narrative and tonal leads from old-school / he-man cinematic faves like the THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, WHERE EAGLES DARE and OPERATION CROSSBOW.
Upon first viewing of the first teaser trailer it was readily obvious ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY was to be at its thematic core a sci fi / space opera-ish / action-adventure rift on THE DIRTY DOZEN – wherein a group of dispossessed fighters and scoundrels embark on what very well may be a suicide mission; and in the process they discover a renewed sense of self worth and hope. By the time the third trailer was released we were certain of it. Oh, and speaking of the THE DIRTY DOZEN, we thought it rather interesting (and not really unexpected) that, when discussing ROGUE ONE with a group of 9 - 14 yr. olds who live up the block from us (we all dug the movie, by the way), when we mentioned THE DIRTY DOZEN, ... they had absolutely no idea what the hell we were talking about.
Chuckling to ourselves, we said, "Ask your dad; he’ll know”.
So, for the youngbloods up the street, and maybe a few other uninitiated around the world, we offer up our own “Dirty Dozen” of twelve films - some classics / some not - which directly or indirectly influenced (have left a distinct cinematic DNA imprint upon the genome of) ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.
“Who’s your daddy, ROGUE ONE?”. We answer with our (no shame in our game) testosterone filled, great big sweaty, hairy chested, beard scratching, G.I Joe with the Kung Fu Grip, pulp war film version of MAMMA MIA!’s poppa search.
“May the Force be with you”.
CEJ (Dec. 2016)