The Bushido of ‘Rogue One’

By  · Published on February 9th, 2017

Why the samurai cinema of Akira Kurosawa is more important than ever to the ‘Star Wars’ franchise.

It’s no secret that the plot for the original Star Wars trilogy was borrowed by George Lucas from Akira Kurosawa, specifically The Hidden Fortress. Characters, character dynamics, plot points, even the general environment of the latter film was coopted by Lucas – a great admirer of Kurosawa’s – into the multi-billion dollar empire we all know and love. But a lot of people think that’s where the Kurosawa connection ends, when in fact there are allusions and tributes to him in all the Star Wars films, including the latest, Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One.

If nothing else, the way Kurosawa told a story, balancing epic narratives with intimate perspectives, the way he brought big issues into little lives, is what Star Wars is all about. Add to this all the subtle cues lifted from samurai culture – the lightsabers, the fighting style, the robes and armor – and it’s easy to see that even today, especially today, Kurosawa is more important to the franchise than ever.

In Rogue One, the franchise cast its first Asian leads in Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, who play Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, respectively, a pair of warriors who look and fight like they were plucked straight from a Kurosawa film, as is their faithful, daredevil spirits. Furthermore, Kurosawa’s key narrative facet, that of telling stories from the perspective of people considered “low” – peasants, laborers, scoundrels, the dispossessed or unwanted – is taken to a new level in Rogue One, which features not one or two such characters, but a unit of them, a tribe, almost. And all this is really just the beginning.

In the following video from Screen Prism the impact of Kurosawa upon the entire Star Wars saga is studied, especially the connection Rogue One has to the director. Some of this is old news, but there’s enough revelatory information here that a little refresher doesn’t hurt before getting to the new stuff. However, if you for some reason haven’t seen Rogue One yet, be wary, there are all sorts of spoilers inside.

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