EDITORIALS

Why Disney Should Let 'Rogue One' Rebel Against Star Wars Formula

by
June 3, 2016

Rogue One

"This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel." Who would have thought that line, spoken by actress Felicity Jones' character Jyn Erso in the Rogue One teaser trailer, would have such great significance for the actual film itself? According to several unconfirmed sources, Rogue One might've rebelled a tad too much. That's the story that has been sweeping the internet this week with major rumors that the first film in the Star Wars Anthology series, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will undergo significant reshoots after initial internal test screenings at Disney apparently failed to impress senior executives. Let's examine why I think that might not bode well for the spin-off and why the film should rebel against the famous Star Wars formula.

When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (at first called Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One, a much clunkier title before this one) was originally announced, it was met with much enthusiasm by Star Wars fans. Even though we've seen seven installments or episodes in the Star Wars saga, they have all been in one form or another about the Skywalker family. Thanks to the Expanded Universe (which is now referred to as the "Legacy" series and deemed "not canon"), die-hard Star Wars know there's a wealth of stories to be told that don't feature someone named Skywalker or a Jedi Knight. There's been tens, if not hundreds, of published material (both in narrative book form and graphic novel/comic book form) that focus on bounty hunters, aliens, side characters and all others in between. The Star Wars films have only scratched the surface at the untapped potential the franchise possess in those galaxies far, far away.

As details further emerged during pre-production regarding Rogue One, the prospect of a live-action story existing in the Star Wars universe but focusing on new, different characters became much more enticing. Once the trailer dropped, fans got to see firsthand how different and unique Rogue One would truly be. As a refresher, check out the original teaser trailer that got fans so excited in the first place:

Why were fans so excited? Well, for one, Rogue One looked and felt radically different in tone and style than any Star Wars film that has come before. In my mind, it most resembles the tone and atmosphere of the original film, A New Hope. Which is why I for one am very puzzled as to how Disney thinks the tone isn't fit for a Star Wars movie. Did any Disney execs watch The Empire Strikes Back, one of the darkest entries in the series and also commonly regarded as one of the best? According to Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, Disney wants the film to have more "levity" and a "fun sense of adventure". While A New Hope had those elements, it was also a very gritty, sometimes spartan space adventure about a group of unlikely heroes being thrust together and forced to get along.

Which is why I was so excited when the Rogue One trailer promised something I had been wanting to see in the Star Wars franchise for a very long time and haven't quite seen since A New Hope: a story focusing on a group of ragtag, unknown characters struggling to survive amongst this big, sprawling epic war between the Empire and the Rebellion. Yes, the film's story focuses on Rebel fighters, but the main character doesn't even seem to be a member of the Rebellion at first. The prospect of a film seen through an average person's point-of-view in the Star Wars universe excited me very, very much. And judging by the trailer's reception, this excited a lot of other fans as well. So when reshoots were first rumored, I honestly dismissed it. Every major blockbuster either goes through reshoots at one point or another, or wishes they could have the time / money for them. It's commonplace in the film industry. However, when more reports surfaced, claiming Disney wanted to change the tone of Rogue One, that's when I became more concerned about their plans.

Rogue One

Disney has a very unique opportunity with Rogue One, which according to sources can be described at the moment (and has been described by director Gareth Edwards) as a "war movie". As the first in this series of spin-off films, it has the chance to be something truly different from anything else we've seen before in the cinematic Star Wars lexicon. Wasn't that the whole point of this exercise? To explore different parts of a franchise many, many people are quite familiar with? It sounds like Disney might be reacting to the astronomical success of The Force Awakens, a film that was largely embraced by fans and regular audiences alike. However, there are some – a vocal minority – that had issues with The Force Awakens that didn't just deal with the film's overly conversant narrative and reliance on traditional Star Wars tropes.

If I'm to be bold, I would argue Rogue One (at least from the initial teaser trailer) feels more like a true Star Wars movie right now than The Force Awakens did.

Now, that's not to say I don't love The Force Awakens – because I do. However, I feel like I'm in a weird place where I enjoyed the film but also want more diversity in my Star Wars. That diversity not only comes from exploring new characters and new galaxies, but also new ways to interpret a franchise that has been interpreted a very certain way since 1977. Audiences are smart to know Rogue One isn't a part of the main Star Wars saga and they also smart enough to accept different flavors of the same thing. Look at the Star Trek franchise, for example. The Original Series is very different from The Next Generation which is very different from Deep Space Nine. The producers behind Trek knew they needed to mix things up if they wanted to remain interesting and they did – at least until Enterprise when the formula became old & tired (although some would argue that started with Voyager, but alas…).

What happened after Enterprise was cancelled after only four seasons, when every spin-off lasted seven? It laid dormant until J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise many years later. The irony given Abrams rebooted Star Wars with The Force Awakens last year is not lost on me.

Rogue One Artwork

If Disney wants to create this expansive film universe for Star Wars that doesn't need to be rebooted in 5 to 10 years time- with the "main" films and spin-offs coming out every other year – they are going to need to diversify. That means making films that don't fit the Star Wars formula. That's what the “saga” films are for. If Rogue One is going to be exactly like what has come before, how is that going to be interesting? How is that going to be fresh? Disney needs to start thinking about ways to make sure Star Wars is going to be as exciting 10 years from now as it is currently. The Force Awakens proved there's still a huge amount of interest from fans and general audiences alike in the franchise. Don't squander that by creating a formula that's going to get repetitive quickly if it doesn't get mixed up every once in a while, say every other year with a new Star Wars Story.

Speaking of tired formulas, one could argue there's some repetition settling in with the Marvel movies and superhero films alike. Some are arguing fans and audiences are getting "tired" of the "same 'ole thing" with superhero films. Kevin Fiege and Marvel have come under heat as of late for not taking any risks and for being too safe with their properties (whether that's not killing off major characters or utilizing the same formula/script structure repeatedly with each film). I guess it is appropriate as Marvel is under the same roof as Star Wars now, but Disney has a chance to not let Star Wars fall into the same traps.

If Disney wants Star Wars to succeed, they need to take risks. It's okay if Rogue One is actually a war movie or perhaps not as loud or fun as The Force Awakens or even A New Hope. After all, you hired Gareth Edwards, so you must have watched his prior two films – Monsters and Godzilla – both films which defy convention a tad and are quieter by blockbuster standards. You knew what you were getting into. So let Edwards make his movie and let Rogue One be an entirely different beast than what has become before in the Star Wars franchise. Who knows. You might be surprised at the results. Do you think Disney should be tinkering with Rogue One or should they leave it alone? Sound Off in the comments below!

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  • H2OzDMG
    Bring on the darkness.
  • Sean Taylor
    I would certainly enjoy a darker, different take on the Star Wars universe.
    • Same. I was looking forward to a Star Wars "war movie". I hope it still retains some of that spirit in the final version.
  • Turn all the lights out. Darker than dark.
  • Joshdamage
    I would actually enjoy if they do what they know works. People clamoring for dark films should check out indy films. Filmmakers of these kinds of movies (star wars and superhero) will never please everyone. If you veer too far away from what people like, the audience will feel betrayed (BVS)
    • BvS wasn't dark. It was depressingly dull.
      • John
        Exactly. WB scrambles to "brighten" the DC universe after the disappointing box office of BvS because they felt that audiences didn't want dark, which isn't the lesson to be taken from it. The problem was poor execution of story. Not tone. How quickly they forgot how much money they made from the Nolan trilogy. Rogue One should be dark if its a War movie.
        • Indeed. Studio execs aren't renowned for the brightness of their minds. When Deadpool did well in the box office, they went all yada yada, and decided that from now on, R-rating is the key of success.
          • John
            They're in a frenzy to capture the magic money of TFA, but the sad truth is everyone was waiting to see a sequel to Jedi for over 30 years, you can't have that kind of Box Office with every SW film. You can try, but its going to hurt more than its going to help. Diversity is the key.
  • Yes because after watching Godzilla this wasn't something they could have foreseen. I have zero faith in this movie. Good Trailer or not.
  • RAW_D
    Re-shoots on films usually indicates studio meddling, with the intent to create a viable commercial product that makes money, rather than cater to the fan base. I was sincerely hoping Disney was entrusting their creative talent to shepherd in the new era of Star Wars mythology, but unfortunately, at the end of the day, they're a corporation who wants to make money/profits from their franchise, and risks don't sell well in movies these days. Especially blockbuster franchises. It definitely causes concern because what I saw in the trailer for Rogue One was what I hungered for in the Force Awakens. The more I watch the Force Awakens, the more I realize it's pretty much a shot for shot remake of a New Hope. While it was still leagues better than the prequels, it was not exactly what I was hoping for. There were aspects I really liked, but a lot that I detested. Rey and Finn were fantastic, and the search for Skywalker was intriguing, but the Starkiller Base was a lousy plot device. How stupid is the First Order? SERIOUSLY?!? I was hoping for a breath of fresh air, and my hope was that Rogue One would be the first breath. Now...I have a bad feeling about this... Rant end.
    • Bob
      Reshoots actually happen all the time
      • RAW_D
        Yeah, maybe we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that re-shoots are automatically bad. My experience with movies that have publicly stated they require re-shoots, tend to be terrible movies, and it's a last ditch effort to salvage the film. However, seeing that E.T. and LOTR have all required re-shoots, has calmed my fears some. However...when you love the franchise as much as I do...you just really want them to do it justice! Nothing sucks worse than a disappointing Star Wars movie. AM I WRONG?!?
    • Yeah I've seen a lot of people come around and realizing that this is what JJ is best at. Paying homages and ripping off other directors work (IMO). Unfortunately its now like beating a dead horse. It is what it is and I feel a somewhat sense of Déjà vu I had with the prequels. Every time you'd just hope the next one is better. Considering 20cen fox wanted to pull the plug on the original SW way back then, I have still faith that this will turnout somewhat interesting.
    • Great intellectual rant. Rey was the highlight of the movie, Finn i didn't like... But overall a great experience.
  • I wish they could go the Firefly formula.
    • grimjob
      I wish Whedon would go back that 'verse.
      • Alas we know this will never happen... Unless he will create a new show that borrows a little from Firefly.
  • kitano0
    I said this in another post, but I will risk being redundant: How could a major studio not know what was going on day-to-day? Are there not daily rushes that a major Mousehead could not watch and see what tone was developing? It seems like a very inefficient way of making movies, to go back and re-shoot so much of a movie. Unless, of course, someone just decided to change horses in the middle of hyperspace. All of this sounds like it could be just hype, to generate clicks and pique interest (like that needs to be done!) Weird.
    • RAW_D
      That's interesting man....that's f*cking interesting...
  • MLTC
    :-( I hope it's not true!
  • Jenaro Martinez
    It will make a great Director's Cut edition, one disc with the theatrical release, and another with the darker in tone Gareth's cut.
  • DAVIDPD
    Let's just keep breathing and try and withhold any judgement until this beast gets unleashed onto the public.
  • Bob
    Disney is about to be 0 for 2
  • You know who should've directed this movie? Kathleen Bigelow. That woman knows it all. She can do great gritty action and keep a good story together. Oh well. After being let down by TFA I only have faith in EP8 with Looper director on board. Hopefully the interference from Disney is minimal.
    • John
      There's nothing wrong with Gareth Edwards. It feels like more of an issue with the studio trying to renege on different tones and want the same money they got with TFA...not gonna happen...get over it and allow the difference to be a part of it not "feeling" like other star wars...
      • I didnt say that there is something wrong with the dude but Godzilla was awful. So one can assume that yes, that there are too many cooks in the kitchen but its also a possibility that the first cut sucked. Plain and simple. And what you mean 'get over it', dude you need to re-read what I said. I want it to be different. Hence my Bigelow wish. I've seen both films Edwards has done and they are absolutely dumb from a narrative point of view. Good Effects yes, but a waste of time. IMO.
        • Godzilla was awefull and the only movie i walked away from in my total movie career. Monsters is a gem, i adore that movie...
    • yes i agree, Bigelow would be great choice...
  • John
    I don't care if they want to shoot to make it "better". Thats fine, but when it comes to changing the tone to suit the same tone as TFA, then that's BS. What will keep the SW movies vital is diversity.
  • Jimmy Rabbitte
    I think we're all suffering from the after effects of the prequel(s) hangover. Hopes were so solidly dashed by Episodes I, II & III that panic mode is setting in as a knee jerk reaction. We'll call it Jar-Jar Syndrome... I agree that the teaser trailer looked great; but it was just a teaser trailer. It had no true sense of story flow. While I understand the unease that has greeted this announcement; maybe we shouldn't assume that they have told Gareth Edwards to shoot a series of Keystone Kop scenes (the droid factory in Episode II, for example). Let's keep at least a little optimism! Episode IV was in trouble after principle photography and that turned out alright. Episode VI may have fared better if they had finished off a few of those scenes that were cut out; particularly the opening with Luke finishing off his new lightsaber and hiding it in R2. And what about Episode V?... Well, ...Empire was that lightning in a bottle type of film. It is the "Casablanca" of the Star Wars saga. Everything just gelled and it is easily the most effortlessly awesome film of all the Star Wars movies. We'd all love to see that happen again; but expecting it and trying to somehow consciously manufacture it can lead to disaster. It would be a huge mistake on Disney's part to think it'd be a good idea to overcook the grits. Hopefully that is not what is happening on "Rogue One".
  • Joe Spin
    They brought on the Tony Gilroy writer/director (“Michael Clayton,” “The Bourne Legacy“) and STUNT COORDINATOR and second unit director Simon Crane (“Edge Of Tomorrow,” “World War Z,” “Titanic“) to assist the reshoots... Sorry, but these two names don't exactly scream "levity, and fun". I think this is a perfect example of media speculation that has no basis. Additional shoots are totally normal, they want to make the film better, what's wrong with that? What has been reported as being the problem doesn't add up when you see who they've brought on to help. If anything Edwards may have made too personal of a story and they want it to be larger and more flashy by adding vfx/2nd unit work that won't really change the story. Which is totally normal and something Edwards is involved in. Directors who do reshoots... Spielberg (on E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL for example), Coppola (Apocalypse now for example), Peter Jackson (LOTR for example), ... It's very clear people who make reshoots a mark of death, are unaware with just a part of the creative process when making something as complex as a film.
    • Agreed. I think I read a few tweets from people involved and they all basically saying its made up by the media. Lets hope so.
    • well said and very interesting you gave... thanks.
  • grimjob
    I'm just hoping they reshoot her "I rebel" and "Yes sir" lines. Her delivery just bugs the shit out of me. I don't know, maybe its just her face. Goddamn I love Star Wars.
    • Haha yes. In every trailer scene she makes the same face. The I rebel line is not badly written but the delivery is def cringe worthy.
  • Some positive opinion. I loved star trek voyager because of the prominent borg reappearences, and the doc, didn't like captain Picard. Yup shoot me The last three star trek movies i liked, but they are just action movies, no star trek feeling with them. Scott bakula was a great captain and the series was overal well made, but i get they didn't go on with it, it felt unnecessary because trekkies like me know the history. The should have continued with a spinoff after voyager or deep space nine...
  • Thanks for that!
  • Daniel Henry
    Levity?? The first two films are the darkest entries and widely considered the best. Sure, throw in some ewoks, perhaps a jar jar cameo would bring some laughs.. Disney: leave the director alone and let him do his job!!!
  • Payne by name
    I agree that it is disappointing to hear of the desire for a tonal shift. If Disney want to keep milking the golden goose they need films that alternate between the squeaky clean and the down and dirty. To that extent I thought Rogue One would be that opposite. The counter to the second half of TFA which did, in my opinion, descend a little into predictable crowd pleasing tat. Make Rogue too upbeat and you lose the opportunities gained by releasing the shackles on these 'alternatives' to push the envelope. Diversity will keep the franchise free, studio exec predictably will not.
  • Sabretruthtiger
    Try using a central male protagonist and it'll do a lot better. Men are innately and biological the action/warrior heroes. The males of mammalian species do the fighting and go out to make fortunes, collect trinkets search for females for mating rights. This 'kick-ass' female cliche now doesn't ring true within our primal subconscious, it runs counter to our biological programming, we inwardly groan whenever we see yet another 100 pound girl kung-fu-kicking the ass of 200 pound trained male soldiers. The female characters that we love aren't ninjas, they're physically average but strong-willed, resourceful and courageous like Ripley, Leia etc They don't resort to being masculine to be strong. We secretly want to see Luke and a strong male character. There's a reason people became obsessed with John Snow and his defeat of the white walker was one of the highlights of the entire series.
    • minuminu
      This is complete bullshit.
    • Louie
      Well TFA did quite well with a female protagonist. So I'ma have to disagree with your analysis. I personally don't care about the gender/color/sexual orientation of the characters. Just give me a good movie.
    • RdWd
      The Britonnic celts didn't have an issue with warrior women. Men and women fought against Romans. Boudica of the Iceni tribe was ferocious as a political and militant leader.
  • RAW_D
    Yeah, my fears are quelled! YAAAAAAAAAAAY!
  • bumboclot
    I get that Force Awakens had to be safe and predictable because of the bad taste from the previous 3 SW movies, but I was hoping these spin-off movies might take more chances. Go ahead and make it a war movie... it's called Star WARS! Make the Han Solo one a gangster movie. Be creative!
    • minuminu
      This is Disney, though. They buy properties and merchandise first and foremost. They also tend to burn through creatives and rarely deviate from their templates. I think tempering our expectations is the only option.
  • mustang55
    TFA was always going to be the safe bet. Episode 8 will be the risky Empire one (within studio-approved reason), and the offshoots will have their own flavor, of course, but if they lack humor (which Edwards isn't known for, but the writer Weitz knows a joke or two, hmm...) then they'll throw in a few lighter bits so it's not a dark slog. It's a war movie, yes, but even they need some levity to give us a break.
  • Chakra Kusanagi
  • Louie
    So the Disney execs said, "Hey! This isn't a carbon copy of another SW movie! Reshoots at once to make it one!" LOL I have always feared they would beat the SW franchise to dust, just like they have with the Marvel superhero movies. Soon we'll be groaning at the announcement of the next SW movie instead of being excited by it.
  • Christian Beach
    It's rumored that Disney wanted to do reshoots for Rogue One because there was a scene where Darth Vader completely destroyed a rebel base with nothing but the Force and his lightsaber. Apparently Disney thought it was too dark and wanted to tone it down for the kids. Well, forget the kids. This is Star Wars, not Frozen.
    • RdWd
      That sounds incredible. Here's hoping that's not cut.
      • Christian Beach
        I hope it's not cut either. We need to see Vader for the evil dark lord that he truly is!
        • RdWd
          Absolutely. It'll certainly put Kylo Ren's lightsaber-wielding temper tantrum in the control room to shame.
  • Christian Beach
    Oh, thank God.
  • Sitou Harley
    rogue one seems more like a real war, it's like actual rebels fighting against an empire, but the prequals just seem like a few people easily stopped the empire.
    • Sitou Harley
      which is unrealistic
    • RdWd
      You mean stopped the Separatists in the prequels??? Any force-using Jedi on the battlefield bolsters anyone's army.
  • Stars Wars: Rogue One seems a real Star Wars movie for me.Aside from the "rebel theme", the return of Darth Vader will be a blast! I cant wait to see this one.

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