Rogue One, et al.
March 20, 2017 5:07 AM   Subscribe

A question has been nagging at me since I saw Rogue One. It’s about how the movie might be similar to other movies or works of literature. If you haven’t seen Rogue One yet, stop here to avoid a massive spoiler.

So, all our heroes die by the end of the movie. Did not see that coming. Sure, lots of stories see some of the main characters die – perhaps even the lead character, if it’s a good death. But someone is always left to tell the tale. Except in Rogue One. Does Rogue One stand alone in killing off all the people we’ve come to care about, or are there other examples of this sort of mayhem?
posted by bryon to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is extremely common. See Kill 'em All at TV Tropes for many examples.
posted by RichardP at 5:14 AM on March 20

A lot of the TVTropes examples leave at least one person alive though. I would submit The Hateful Eight as a recent example where literally everyone dies, although I at least didn't care about any of them.
posted by mskyle at 5:47 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

I saw it just yesterday, and recall that New Hope had the line "many died to get this information" (re: death star plans) it felt as if they were playing into that…
posted by monocultured at 5:59 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

Nitpick: Monocultured, the "many Bothans died to get this information" was about plans for the second Death Star, while Rogue One was about the stolen plans for the original Death Star.

Personally I'm pretty clueless about any literary references, but it felt to me as a clean way to wrap up a self-contained story without too much "what happened to so-and-so" or overlapping with A New Hope, with just enough ambiguity in the ending that they could do a sequel later if they wanted the cash.
posted by A Robot Ninja at 6:11 AM on March 20 [4 favorites]

A friend described it as The Dirty Dozen of Star Wars, and I think this is accurate.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:27 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]

> A robot ninja: Ah, I got my kanon mixed up…
posted by monocultured at 6:36 AM on March 20

Looking at the TV tropes page, there seems to be a lot of "Almost everyone but ..." "Everyone except ..." (on preview, as mskyle points this out).

Rogue one immediately hit me with the impact that this was one of the few films where I saw all main protaganists die. Resevoir Dogs was close (mr. Pink audibly is arrested and injured, but not (likely) dead), and if Dead Man rolled on long enough it was all-but guaranteed to see Blake/Depp die.

However, even in Rogue one not everyone died. Heck, because of the scenes with the rebel leaders I doubt that it could even be argued that every protagonist with more than a minute of screen time died. Despite the screen time I personally can only think of them as minor protaganists. As important as Leia would be in A New Hope, she can't be argued to be more than a bit part in Rogue one.

I would agree that it's definitely uncommon in western media to not leave at least one main character alive (albeit potentially dying and/or in a very bad spot).
posted by nobeagle at 7:07 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

You wouldn't need to ask this question if, like me, you'd been a British teenager in 1981 and watched the final episode of Blake's 7. (YT)
posted by verstegan at 7:16 AM on March 20 [10 favorites]

posted by kevinbelt at 7:20 AM on March 20 [6 favorites]

B7 gets special points for self-ownage, in that some of the dead good guys killed each other off.

I will, however, point out that there's no reason to believe that Jenna is dead.
posted by praemunire at 7:33 AM on March 20

I thought R2-D2 tells the whole tale.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:34 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Fortinbras is still alive at the end of Hamlet.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:43 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Fortinbras is hardly a major character. Tarkin is probably at least as important to Rogue One as Fortinbras is to Hamlet.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:25 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Rogue One is far from unique. Although it's been out of fashion recently, here's a long tradition of Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies tragedies in human storytelling, from ancient tragedy through the English Renaissance up through more recent apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic works like On The Beach and the finale of Dinosaurs.

More recent movie examples (SPOILERS, obviously) include The Blair Witch Project and The Cabin in the Woods.
posted by pie ninja at 9:03 AM on March 20 [4 favorites]

Fortinbras is barely even a character. He's only in the play to wrap up after the actual action occurs.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:16 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

What is Horatio, chopped liver?
posted by praemunire at 9:36 AM on March 20 [5 favorites]

Does Game of Thrones' Red Wedding count? It's by no means all the characters, but it is all the main characters from that particular story arc/contingent.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:07 AM on March 20

take a look at "Cabin in the Woods"
posted by alchemist at 10:19 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

CS Lewis killed all the children but one and their parents at the end of the Narnia series in what can be summed up as "and they all died happily ever after." The surviving character is more of a side-note about the evils of women acting like adults and not the one who lived to tell the tale.
posted by mattamatic at 10:37 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

One night years ago my husband and I watched The Perfect Storm followed by Gladiator and afterwards just looked at each other and said, "Welp, everyone died." I honestly don't remember who was left alive at the end of Gladiator but The Perfect Storm.....yeah. They all die.
posted by the webmistress at 10:39 AM on March 20

Romeo and Juliet?
posted by Hatashran at 10:39 AM on March 20

posted by JohnFromGR at 11:03 AM on March 20

This is pretty much the entire point of the Final Destination movies, no?
posted by gottabefunky at 11:08 AM on March 20

I feel like this is much more common in war movies, which is what Rogue One thematically felt like.
posted by corb at 11:38 AM on March 20

Easy Rider.
posted by zizzle at 1:14 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

"What is Horatio, chopped liver?"

Rather the opposite, I suppose.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:20 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I immediately thought of the end of Melancholia while I was watching the end of Rogue One. The imagery is similar and yeah, everybody dies.
posted by octothorpe at 2:02 PM on March 20

Yeah, Horatio not Fortinbras is the relevant survivor.

It's an interesting point in the OP how rare it is to have total death. Blake's 7 is the only one I thought of. Dipping into old genre TV fair, maybe Forever Knight, depending on what you think of La Croix. I'm struggling with even a single literature or movie example of any genre. Even Ragnarok in Norse myth has a few survivors.
posted by mark k at 10:26 PM on March 20

Beneath the Planet of the Apes blew my young mind.
posted by booth at 7:51 PM on March 21

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