I mentioned in my previous post that the movie Rogue One shares a structure with historical romance, so now the explanation. This post will spoil the whole plot of the movie. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. Even if you don’t like Star Wars, this movie is possibly the least Star-Warsy of the movies. It’s more like a war movie that has some spaceships. And maybe kind of like an old-school historical romance.
I haven’t read historical romances in ages, so this is based on the ones I read from the 70s and 80s, and it’s possible that there’s some selection bias here, in that it’s the ones I happened to read, but those old-school romances that were often dismissed as “bodice rippers” were often pretty decent adventure stories. There was generally some external plot, like war or piracy. You’d lose a lot of the story if you removed the romance, but there was still a plot outside the romance. Our hero and heroine were thrown together by some circumstance, and they had internal issues with each other. They might see past each other’s facades and resent that, or they might make each other feel uncomfortable things. Sometimes they were on opposite sides of a conflict (he’s a Norman, she’s a Saxon, etc.). In the first half of the book, there was a lot of bickering and bantering as they clashed. Then as they went through some kind of adventure ordeal, they’d realize they could trust each other and dropped their facades to fall in love. This was when the spicy stuff would kick in (though there might have been some less than consensual spicy stuff earlier because this was the 70s-80s). From that point forward, the conflict wouldn’t be between them, but was the two of them against the world, as they had to resolve that external conflict in order to be able to be together for good. I was the weirdo who read these for the war and adventure part, not the spicy stuff, and my favorite part was when they got over their conflict with each other to take on the bad guys together.
Now, Rogue One would never be classified as a Romance, given that there’s not so much as a kiss and both of them die at the end. But it does follow the same basic plot structure as those old romance novels.
They’re initially thrown together in an assignment, and neither of them is happy about it. Jyn is being coerced—if she doesn’t help the rebels get the information from the splinter rebel group, she’ll get sent back to the prison they broke her out of. Cassian has better things to do than babysit this brat. Now that we’ve seen some of his origin in the Andor series, it seems like it’s the case of people who remind us of the parts of ourselves we don’t like being the most annoying to us because he was once exactly like she is at the beginning of the movie, a rebel with no cause, just lashing out at the universe in general and taking no responsibility for anything higher or greater than himself. So, there’s lots of bickering as she gives him attitude and he doesn’t take it.
But they start to grow on each other as they go through the adventure together. They’re both good in a fight and work well as a team. He sees that she’s capable of being unselfish when she risks herself to save a child during a firefight. They start to bond as they escape together and move on to the next phase of the mission: finding her father, who’s been working for the Empire but who may have information on how to destroy the Death Star. But even as they bond, there’s a secret between them. She doesn’t know that his orders are to kill her father when they find him.
There’s another big action ordeal when they get to the Imperial base. He can’t go through with killing her father and sympathizes with her when her father is killed in an attack, anyway. She feels betrayed by his secret. But then he totally redeems himself to her when he takes her side and commits to going rogue to go steal the Death Star plans with her, along with other rebels he’s recruited. From there, it’s the two of them against the world as they work together to get the plans. Then they spend their final moments together, with him reassuring her about her father being proud of her, and they die in each other’s arms. There is a moment between them after they’ve completed their mission that seems pretty loaded, like something might have happened if the Death Star hadn’t shown up, but I don’t know if that was scripted or the actors playing with subtext.
This may be why I like this movie so much. I’m totally a sucker for the “start with bickering, then take on the universe together” trope, whether or not it’s overtly romantic. It even works when it’s just friends, like all those buddy cop stories with the mismatched partners who start out hating each other and then become a great team.
I guess I’ve been thinking about this because the book I’m working on now fits into this pattern. I’m at the part where they’re starting to bond after going through something difficult together, and it’s so much fun.