Tomorrow night I will be sitting down ready for the midnight screening of the new Star Wars film: Rogue One.
Rogue One is a big deal for Disney. It is the first test of the expanded Star Wars cinematic universe. What’s more, it is the first time that Disney will get to see if the viewing public wants a new Star Wars film every year.
Naturally, as a Star Wars fan, it is a big deal for me also. This will be the first time we get to see Disney’s big plan for the Star Wars universe. Sure we have seen the extension of the Star Wars saga with The Force Awakens, but there is a difference between just continuing a linear story, and branching out a whole universe.
So, here are some thoughts I have as to what I want to get from my viewing of Rogue One.
The force awakens captured the feel of the original movies with the classic opening crawl, followed by a cool juxtaposition of massive starship, and alien planet. I am not sure if Rogue One will continue with the opening crawl model, or come up with its own thing. But I am excited to see how they handle it.
I am sure this is a given, but at some point there had better be the iconic blast of brass to portend the arrival of a certain Mr Vader.
One of the things that surprised me most about The Force Awakens was the amount of humour in the film; I genuinely laughed out loud multiple time in the cinema. Now while some of these laughs were just fan service, and only really humorous from that point of view (the reveal as the ‘garbage’ ship being the Millennium Falcon, and C3PO’s entrance being two examples). There was also generally a lot of humour throughout the film, particularly surrounding Finn, that to my mind worked really well (Think for instance about his plan to ‘Use the Force’, or his genuinely amusing act when playing a resistance fighter).
I was a tad worried about the humour in Rogue One when I heard of the reshoots that apparently took place after some Disney higher-ups were worried at an earlier cut of the film being too ‘dark’. After this, a studio heavyweight was apparently brought in to handle some reshoots in order to bring it back to a more ‘Star Warsy’ feel. I mean sure, I am all up for a Star Wars movie being of a different tone than the trilogies. But for me the humour was always an integral part of the story, whether it be the snappy dialogue of Han Solo, or the forced slapstick in some of the prequels.
So I am hoping that there will be some laughs in this film also, and so far,from wat I have seen of Alan Tudyk’s droid, this is likely.
Obviously I cant be very specific here, they are after all surprises; if I knew what I wanted, then how could I be surprised.
But what I am looking for here are not just the big plot changing surprises like Kylo being Ben Solo, or Vader being Luke’s dad, but nifty little surprises like Kylo being able to freeze a blaster bolt (honestly who saw that coming), or Rey’s dramatic capture of the lightsabre.
New Information, but not a new
I want Rogue One to supplement the original trilogy, not uproot it. I don’t want anything I learn to drastically change the views I have of anything from the original trilogy. I know this might seem like the generic whine of an aged fan, but it isn’t just that. It is a genuine concern I have about sequels adding in information that changes your views of original stories, often beyond their original intent.
Think about the bane of many Star Wars fans existence; the midichlorians.
Star Wars always seemed to tread the line between science fiction and fantasy. It had many of the traditional sci-fi staples present: galactic empires, strange planets, awesome spaceships, and weird aliens. But it also had The Force. And the Force was borderline magical. Then enter Qui-Gon Jinn and his midichlorian analyser, and suddenly we had a faux scientific explanation for the force that for many fell flat.
This ‘revelation’ then inevitably made you wonder about the original trilogy films. I recast a lot of what you knew, and didn’t really fit in with what had been originally shown. I get that midichlorian’s flow through us and connect us to the force, but then what doesn that mean about Force ghosts? Honestly here is an example of where keeping things more magical makes more sense, and by adding in midichlorian’s it just confused the issue.
You can see this happening quite often with unplanned sequels, and is one of my pet peeves. When How to Train Your Dragon 2 introduced the dragon brainwashing power, it altered the world. When Highlander 2 gave us the true origins of the immortals as weird alien outcasts, or whatever, it screwed up everything. When Attack of the Clones showed us that R2-D2 had rocket legs, suddenly every jam he was in seemed all the more frustrating because he didn’t just jet the hell out of there!
So long 2016…
So that’s what I don’t want to happen. I don’t want to learn something that makes me rethink some of the basic tenets of the Star Wars universe.
Now don’t get me wrong, I want new information. I want new angles on things, I want light shed on some of the shadowy areas of the Star Wars world. I just want the movie-makers to make sure that these revelations are properly thought out, and fit into the world that we have all come to know and love.
Use Rogue One to add detail to the picture, not to change the overall landscape. Save the drastic world building changes for those stories that are meant to shape the overall narrative of the Star Wars universe; the new sequel trilogy.
A compelling Bad Guy
Star Wars introduced us to Vader, one of the quintessential film villains, and a perfect example of a compelling bad guy. Sure in the first film you can’t really claim that he is all that unique. He wants information on the rebels. Pretty simple stuff. But over the course of the trilogy you learn more about him, and by the end he is an ersatz hero. (and perhaps brings balance to the Force….?).
But the trilogy was able to introduce him as a generic bad buy, and then tease out his character as the trilogy proceeded. As Rogue One will arguably be a self-contained story, it needs to make sure that the protagonists it introduces managed to have their own compelling reasons for doing as they do (beyond simply following the orders of the Sith lords above them).
From the looks of the trailers, and Ben Mendelsohn’s evocation of the power of the battle station that appears to border on obsession, I think this is likely to be something that it achieves.
Cool Space Battles
Say what you will about the prequel trilogy, its access to modern(ish) CGI gave us some pretty amazing looking visuals. Think of the attack on Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith, or Obi-Wan’s escape from Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones.
Cool Ground Battles
AT-AT’s; buff said.
The problem with a story where you know the ending, is that a sense of fatalism can pervade things. When I heard the rumours of a reshoot being necessary in order to ‘lighten’ the film a bit, it confirmed for me one of the most likely outcomes for our rag-tag group of rebels; most of them die.
So fine, I can accept this fatalism. I know that none of these guys are going to bring down the Empire and rise up as a galactic hero. But what I do want instead is for some of these characters to actually grow throughout the film. To have a struggle of some sort, to have an arc.
While the trailers definitly set up the main character as having her development from a rebel, to a Rebel (Note the change in capitalisation; it is important). I hope there is more to the rest of the Rogue One group. I want Mr Blind Force Sensitive man to have a solid arc. I want Guy Who I Just Realised Was In The Terminal to grow and change. I want the people I say goodbye to at the end of the film (and probably some that are dramatically ripped from me half-way through the film) to be different to the people I meet at the start.
Well played fan service.
I want references to my favourite films. Hell, it isn’t every year you get a new Star Wars film (at least it never used to be…). But I want them to be artful. For instance I dont want anything like the following piece of dialogue:
Imperial Worker: We should probably do something about that exhaust vent
Imperial Officer: Forget about it, no one could possible take advantage of this small weakness
Imperial Worker: Seriously though, it wouldn’t be that hard to cover it up-
Imperial Officer: Trust me it will be fine.
Imperial Worker: All I am saying is that one proton torpedo and this space station will be history.
Imperial Officer: Look, we will put it and the end of a long trench; okay?
Imperial Worker: …
References to the Prequels.
While Lucas’ prequel trilogy may be a dirty word(s) in the Star Wars community for many, it is nevertheless a part of the official canon, so I think some acknowledgment of this is necessary.
The Force Awakens could be argued to have no real links to the prequel trilogy. The closest I think it came was the mention of a clone army, though this could be seen simply as a reference to the clone wars line from A New Hope. Indeed I have heard that Forest Whittaker’s character is meant to be a Clone War veteran, which could be taken either way also.
But while I am not really sure what I want to see here, I think that for all the groan worthy things that the prequels gave us, they were also responsible for some pretty cool things.
Weird Alien Animals
Sure alien beings are cool, but alien wildlife is cooler.
R2-D2 was always cool. BB-8 has picked up the baton for a new generation. Lets continue to have the droid community represented in these movies please.
To be Entertained
Really this is it, this is what we all want from a movie. Whatever form that comes in, whether it be uplifting, emotional, scary, funny, adrenalin pumping; at the end of the day these are all forms of entertainment that we choose to expose ourselves to.
So here is hoping that Rogue One is able to continue that Star Wars magic that The Force Awakens recently rekindled.
P.s. Oh, and somebody had better say they have a ‘bad feeling about this’…