On Thursday during the Olympics (and later online) Lucasfilm released the newest trailer for Rogue One. There is so much to digest from trailer, so much folks have found by going through it frame-by-frame. There is one moment in the trailer that has really stuck with me and that is the speech by Chirrut Îmwe before he demolishes a squad of stormtroopers.
Chirrut (played by Donnie Yen) is a blind warrior-monk from the spiritual planet of Jedha.
In the trailer we see an extended version of a scene we had seen previously with Chirrut, in which he uses his staff to take out stormtroopers in the city. What the new trailer provided was context and his declaration and this is what struck me as so powerful and important. Two short sentences tell us everything we need to know about Chirrut in Rogue One:
“I fear nothing. All is as the Force wills it.”
Officially released biographical information on Chirrut tells us that he believes in the Force and in the teachings of the Jedi, even though he is not a Force wielder. It is unclear at this time if the Force centered faith on Jedha is the same religion, an antecedent, or simply similar to the beliefs of the Church of the Force that Lor San Tekka represented in The Force Awakens.
We also don’t know for sure the Empire’s view on religion and particularly a Force/Jedi-worshiping religion that exists on Jedha. The logical assumption is that a dictator has two responses to religion: either it must be co-opted and turned to a means of furthering social control or it must be obliterated because it poses a threat to the stability of the regime.
This leads me to the assumption that Palpatine has banned this faith. The geographical layout of the city on Jedha reminds me of Masada, a mountain fortress in Israel. Masada was the site of a prolonged siege in which Jewish rebels, during a revolt against Roman rule, were surrounded and eventually committed mass suicide before the Romans were able to breach the fortifications and take the fortress.
Given the massive looming Star Destroyer, as well as assorted other craft, tanks, and troopers on Jedha it is clear the planet is in some level of siege and occupation by the Empire.
Which leads me back to what director Gareth Edwards told EW in its profile of the characters: “This idea that magical beings are going to come and save us is going away, and it’s up to normal, everyday people to take a stand to stop evil from dominating the world.”
Evil is dominating Chirrut’s world and with calm determination he makes his choice to stand up. But in my view he doesn’t just take up arms against the Empire. By invoking the Force in public before his attack, I think he is going a step further and truly crossing the Rubicon. Not only is he standing against the Empire, but he is embracing the purported treasonous Jedi who attempted to overthrow the Republic and assassinate the Chancellor.
Win or lose in his fight against the Empire, Chirrut has stood up not only against what he opposes but FOR what he believes in. This is powerful and whether he lives a hero or dies a martyr his example could very well spark a fire across the galaxy and rekindle faith in those for whom all hope seems lost.
Chirrut Îmwe provides us with a powerful lesson in our real world as well: no matter the odds, a man (or woman) must stand up against tyranny and oppression. It can be a simple as refusing to move to the back of a bus or as dramatic as standing in front of a tank, but the act of standing up is a victory in and of itself.
It may still be early in the promotional calendar for Star Wars: Rogue One, but with a spine of transparisteel and balls the size of Death Stars, Chirrut is already one of my favorite characters.
Until next time, may the Force be with you.