It’s exploring an avenue of the story with a brand-new cast. In terms of keeping Star Wars as fresh as possible, that’s no bad thing.
A NEW HOPE FOR CREATIVITY
Rogue One takes place before the events of A New Hope, and fills in a little bit of its backstory. We’re set to see an Empire near its height, and a small band of rebels attempting to pilfer the plans to the first Death Star (we’re up to effectively three Death Stars so far, if anyone’s keeping count). So we know where the story has to end up (and it’s clear there’s no need to shoehorn in any Empire-toppling here), but – one or two notable exceptions aside – it’s exploring an avenue of the story with a brand-new cast. In terms of keeping Star Wars as fresh as possible, that’s no bad thing – especially seeing as Disney and Lucasfilm plan to bring us a Star Wars movie annually, with films such as Rogue One, the upcoming young Han Solo, and a rumoured Boba Fett film alternating with Episodes XIII and IX in the coming years.
At a time when we’re seeing a lot of sequels and sagas on the big screen, Disney and Lucasfilm have bought themselves wiggle room to try new things.
As much as the richness of the trilogies dominate – with some justification – Star Wars on the big screen, Rogue One and the more standalone projects that are due to follow point a welcome alternate path for the saga. A wider range of stories can now be considered that don’t have to sustain the narrative weight of three films. At a time when we’re seeing a lot of sequels and sagas on the big screen, Disney and Lucasfilm have bought themselves wiggle room to try new things.
The standalone films also allow them to bring in a broader range of filmmakers (The LEGO Movie duo Chris Miller and Phil Lord, for instance, are handling the Han Solo movie), and to open up ideas that otherwise simply might not fit.
WILD, WEIRD AND WONDERFUL DIRECTIONS
Granted, this is still commerce. The demands of a Star Wars blockbuster won’t change, especially seeing as Disney – who paid over $4bn for Lucasfilm, and in turn, ownership of Star Wars – has seen that a new film in the series can gross over $2bn at the global box office (Star Wars: The Force Awakens was only the third film ever to do so). Small, independent experimental Star Wars films – which, ironically, the first film was – are not an option. But still, there’s some fresh latitude in terms of storytelling, and in taking a few more gambles with casting and directors, to move away from the purely trilogy-driven model.
What’s more, the annual movie model – one that’s now also being adopted by Paramount for its Transformers movie universe from next year – means that if one film doesn’t work, the safety net of another is never more than 12 months away. Sure, there’s an argument that the neck of the golden goose is under a little threat. But on the other hand, Star Wars is a big, huge world, which has, across videogames and books, gone off in some wild, weird and wonderful directions. Now there’s space for the films to do the same.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out on 15 December; get your tickets here.
Simon Brew @simonbrew.