Couples, Star Wars and Rogue One

The Star Wars films use characters to play common roles and functions within the franchise. By ‘roles’ I mean less plot central aspects of the story such as ‘comic relief’ and by ‘functions’ I mean more directly plot relevant tasks such ‘character who delivers secret message’. To make the films both different and yet familiar roles and functions are repeated between films but divided between different characters (and/or objects).

This approach begins with the original Star Wars film (‘Episode 4’, ‘A New Hope’, or if you wish to troll two fandoms simultaneously ‘The Original Series’). Lucas takes roles and functions from other films but creates new characters around them. Lucas draws upon films like The Dam Busters, 633 Squadron, The Guns of Navarone and takes aspects of those films and reworks them into his film. The fjord in 633 Squadron has a function that is shared by the trench on the Death Star that leads to the exhaust port for example.

The most substantial source though is Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. The roles (Princess, former general, former general’s rival on the enemy side, a hidden resistance base etc) are lifted from Kurosawa’s tale of rival clans in feudal Japan and placed in a new setting. However, there is not a simple mapping of Hidden Fortress to Star Wars, mainly because new characters and plot points are added but also because functions map out differently or brought in from other films.

However, one of the earliest points at which both films map is the classic shot of the bickering couple trudging through a desert. In Hidden Fortress the couple are the the two peasant soldiers Tahei and Matashichi, survivors and runaways from a battle. In Star Wars the couple are C3PO and R2D2, who have just escaped a space battle. The role of the couple are similar in both films – comedic banter and commentary on what the main characters are doing. In that latter role they provide a bridge between the main characters and the audience, wondering aloud (in Star Wars only C3PO actually intelligible) what is happening. The function they couples play is different. R2D2 has a very specific Star Wars role – carrying the Death Star plans to the Rebellion that does not have a simple parallel with Hidden Fortress.http://www.scene-stealers.com/wp-content/uploads//2014/04/hidden_fortress_blu-ray.jpg

In the sequels and prequels to Star Wars the couple role becomes less attached to the two droids. At times it passes to Anakin and Obi Wan in parts of episode 2 and 3, to Han and Chewbacca, Luke and Yoda but rarely lingers for reasons I’ll get to. In the Force Awakens (episode 7 or if you prefer ‘Star Wars:TNG’) the couple role bounces around multiple characters but is often centred on Finn (Finn and Bo Dameron, Finn and BB8, Finn and Rey, Finn and Han etc).

The couple role naturally connects with comedic relief. It turns up in classic comedy duos (Abbot and Costello, Laurel and Hardy), buddy-cop movies and isn’t confined to male-male pairs. Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man series, Lucy and Ricky in I Love Lucy, Abbey and Martha Brewster the ageing sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/11/01/cf/1101cf64a6acf86304650b57510d5508.jpg

The pairing can be platonic or sexual but the familiarity of the role/trope is the married couple – two people who have known each other a long time. The role is not about sexual tension but it doesn’t preclude two characters between whom there is sexual tension sometimes playing aspects of the role (Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd in Moonlighting, even on occasion Mulder and Scully in the X-Files). The issue is not that the couple cannot ever have other emotional aspects to their relationship but rather when those other aspects come to the fore they play a different role. It is for this reason that the Star Wars prequels never maintain a consistent couple role in the way that Star Wars Original Recipe does with R2D2 and C3PO.

Rogue One passes the comedic relief role to K2-SO and the delivery of Death Star plans function to Bodhi Rook. R2D2 and C3PO get a cameo (of course – and establishing that R2D2 is busy controlling the rebellion on Yavin…). However, it also reinvents the couple role with Chirrut Iwe and Baze Malbus. Their role is less comedic but it is essentially the couple role. You can, if you wish, take it as a platonic friendship but as a supporter of the principle & traditions of marriage, I prefer to assume they are actually married (mind you I assume the same about R2D2 and C3PO so I’m easily persuaded towards this position).

As a pair, they have both overt differences from both the Star Wars IV couple and the Hidden Fortress couple but also distinct similarities.

Unlike Tahei and Matashichi they are season warriors who are brave and face danger. They are selfless and eager to help. They are competent and highly skilled. They both show wisdom and personal insight.

However, like Tahei and Matashichi they are found in desert surroundings amid (sort of) a battlefield. They are allied with the losing side in a conflict but have become separated from it. They are drawn back into the centre of the conflict by a woman protagonist. They form a nucleus of a small army under that woman’s leadership.

Likewise, they have a similar alternate-reality relationship with R2D2 and C3PO. The similarities are weaker than those with the Hidden Fortress pair. Most notably is the related but muted colour scheme of the pair that mirrors the droids.

noescapefortheprincessthistime

Chirrut is dressed in blue and white (with a small amount of red). Baze is dressed in yellows/beige. They are not, of course, the R2D2-C3PO of Rogue One – they are different characters and have different functions but their role has distinct parallels with both the Droids and Tahei and Matashichi that also highlights the extreme differences.

rogue-one-2

“Wait, “you say, “this is somewhat convoluted. Where are you going with this? It’s not another…oh it is, isn’t it? For goodness sake…”

Yes, yes! This blog has only the one official fan theory and we will use any and all means to promulgate it.Chirrut is the R2D2 analogue in Rogue One *and* he is, as we also contend R2 is, a force user!

Chirrut is the R2D2 analogue in Rogue One *and* he is, as we also contend R2 is, a force user!They even both use the force to do the same thing!

Chirrut uses the force and personal focus to walk through a volley of blaster shots unharmed. R2D2 does the exact same thing only a few hours later (in-universe) on Captain Antilles ship!

No, don’t walk away! I’ve all sorts of other proofs to show you!

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One comment

  1. Cora

    Great observations, Camestros, and for the record, I agree with you.

    My most intense Star Wars fan phase happened to coincide with my “teenage cineast” phase, so I watched pretty much every movie that has ever been claimed to have served as an inspiration for Star Wars. And in most of those cases, I neither enjoyed the movie nor could I see any connection to Star Wars at all. With that experience, I didn’t expect much from “The Hidden Fortress”, when I sat down to watch it during a Kurosawa retrospective on TV. After all, this was a Japanese samurai movie from the 1950s, so how good could it possibly be?

    But lo and behold, not only was “The Hidden Fortress” excellent and quickly propelled Akira Kurosawa onto my list of favourite directors, the Star Wars connection was also totally obvious. So thanks for reminding me of a wonderful movie I haven’t watched in much too long.

    The bickering couple trope of course has a lengthy tradition and shows up in all sorts of things. Nowadays, it’s particularly prevalent in TV shows, see Castle and Beckett, Bones and Booth, Steve and Danno in Hawaii Five-O, etc… NCIS LA is basically four bickering couples (Sam and Callan, Kenzi and Deeks, Eric and Nell, Hetty and Granger) with incidental plots and explosions. Interestingly, these are all shows that many people say they watch more for the characters than the plots, because watching the bickering couples interact is so much fun.

    Like

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