by: Josh Outred
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as most of you probably already know (although it’s becoming apparent that Disney would prefer more people knew at this stage), is the first in a series of standalone Star Wars films set away from the main Skywalker saga, it will tell the story of how a rag-tag band of Rebels stole the plans to the Empire’s first Death Star. The cast and crew of the film have referred to Rogue One as a gritty, on-the-ground war movie, something many Star Wars fans, myself included, have been waiting for.
However, it’s no secret that since the film was first announced, I haven’t exactly been its biggest supporter. As a huge Star Wars guy, this lack of enthusiasm surprised even me. How could I not be excited for this film? It’s Star Wars, naturally I expected to be ecstatic about the announcement of this film, and I just wasn’t.
Now, I’ve come to realize that initial disappointment came down to one main reason, at the time we were all anticipating the release of The Force Awakens (and personally I was hyper-focused on that film), I wanted to embrace the special time leading up to the seventh edition in the Star Wars saga, a film so many of us had waited years for. Rogue One was announced in the midst of all that excitement and anticipation and I just truly couldn’t focus on it, or be excited for it.
The Force Awakens was such a highly anticipated film, most Star Wars fans never thought we’d ever see a sequel to Return of the Jedi, so when its announcement finally came I think I speak for everyone when I say it was memorable. I couldn’t believe we were finally going to see Luke, Han and Leia on the silver screen again. What was the story? Were Han and Leia still a couple? So many questions, so few answers, with infinite possibilities. It made for an exciting time. The thought of seeing another story with those characters made me (and many other fans) incredibly emotional. Frankly it still does.
Rogue One bought about a dilemma for me, the story was said to focus on the stolen Death Star plans that lead directly into the original entry into the Star Wars universe, A New Hope. This was a story that as a child I played out with my action figures on my bedroom floor – yet I was not excited in the slightest. I decided that I needed more time to soak it all in. First of all, I needed to see The Force Awakens and take in all that it had to offer, maybe then I’d begin the feverish anticipation that others already felt about it?
January came around, after seeing Episode VII a number of times I began to turn my attention timidly to December, still not quite sure of what to expect. Was I really ready to leave Luke and Leia again after only just being reacquainted with my childhood heroes?
April arrived and so did the first teaser for Rogue One, at last we were getting a glimpse at this so called “war movie”. The teaser worked on a number of levels for me; however, I still wasn’t completely sold. I still wonder whether or not I was over my Force Awakens hangover at this point, we’d only just been introduced to brand new characters like Rey and Finn, so the thought of having to fall in love with a whole group of completely unfamiliar characters just a year later worried me. I really wanted to care about this film but something just wasn’t clicking into place.
As we got further away from The Force Awakens and closer to Rogue One I started to wonder whether or not that I was ever going to feel ready for this departure from the saga films. The change, even though we were still in a galaxy far, far away, made me nervous. It wasn’t until the home release of Episode VII that my feelings started to sway in a different direction. After countless viewings of The Force Awakens, and the release of the first full trailer for Rogue One, something switched in me, I was ready; the change no longer frightened me like it had for so long.
After being thrust back into Star Wars in such a tonally and visually familiar way with The Force Awakens we were all on a nostalgic high, it seemed that everything we originally loved was back, and it was beautiful, however, I started to crave the newness that the spin-off’s had to offer. I was ready to jump into a new story with new characters in a somewhat unfamiliar world. The Force Awakens was very much a reintroduction to Star Wars and now I was beginning to feel like fresh locations and stories set in this familiar home were necessary for not just me, but the longevity of Star Wars itself.
As different as Rogue One will evidently be to what has come before it, Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) has clearly tried to keep this film feeling like Star Wars. Introducing new ships like the Rebel’s U-Wing and the Imperial’s TIE Striker, along with the new Death Trooper (pictured above), the aesthetic of Rogue One doesn’t sway from what we all know and love. The visually familiar aspect is key to keeping this film a Star Wars film, Gareth Edwards was even quoted in a recent interview with Empire Magazine as saying; “ we found if you go slightly to the left, it’s not Star Wars, it’s just some other sci-fi movie. But go too far the other way and it just feels like you’re doing a karaoke number of what George has already done.” I really appreciate his terminology here, he’s coming at it from the perspective that George Lucas is no longer at the helm of these films, and although it’s still the world he created, it’s now being shepherded forward by a new generation of filmmakers, who most importantly, have their own methods of telling a story from the page to the screen.
It’s incredibly important to me that the new era of Star Wars films remain faithful to George’s vision and the world building he so brilliantly crafted, however, for these films to have the longevity and shelf life that the other Star Wars movies have so rightfully had, thresholds have to be crossed. It’s not just about staying safe and trying to stay as visually close to what George created, it’s about telling a story, an original story that reflects the creativity of the director at the helm of the film, to respect what’s come before but progress Star Wars storytelling forward for new generations, for years to come.
It’s by this reasoning that my anticipation level for Rogue One went from zero to a hundred in quite a short space of time. Watching The Force Awakens over and over I just found myself wanting the unknown, the unfamiliar, to go forward in this vast canvas of potential storytelling and find new iconic characters and imagery to love and behold.
Although Rogue One is set in a an era very near and dear to us, the creatives behind it have clearly tried their utmost to push the boundaries and present to us a film that will give us the comfort of our favorite living room chair, whilst adding some new décor to the house. It’s a truly incredible time to be a Star Wars fan, I feel like now is the time to step into the unknown and embrace all that the future films have to offer.
Now that we’re are 9 months post The Force Awakens’ release and on the cusp of this first spin-off film, I think I can finally say with confidence- I’m ready!