Written By: Dan Geer
Last year around this time, I wrote an article designed to help keep one’s expectations for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in check. After all, it was probably the most anticipated Star Wars movie since 1999’s The Phantom Menace, and we all know how expectations definitely played a part in our enjoyment of that movie. Even though Episode I has flaws, one has to admit that our expectations for that movie back in 1999 were so high that the film didn’t stand a chance – even if it was great (pssst… I liked the movie, but agree that it has some shortcomings). The Force Awakens, thankfully didn’t suffer nearly as brutal of a beating (and it was a better movie overall).
My article probably didn’t have a huge impact on setting expectations, but I like knowing that it was out there and that maybe even just one person read it and enjoyed The Force Awakens more because of it. Therefore, it seemed only fitting that I uphold the tradition and compose a similar article for “the next Star Wars movie” – which really isn’t what we all think of when we frame it like that. When people used to say this, it meant the next episode in the saga. That is clearly not the case this time, and with that it means that we really need to go into this one with a clean slate for the most part, and rethink what we should be expecting for the first standalone movie in the franchise.
– “Standalone” really does mean exactly what the term implies.
While Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is indeed connected to the Star Wars saga, it is not the next episode. The trailers haven’t been dumbed down to indicate this for those not in the know (which is both brave and commendable), but I still think they needed to be. Sure, the typical fan has known from the get-go what this movie is, and the trailers seem clear enough – to the fans. But general movie-going audiences are simply seeing it as the next Star Wars movie. As indicated above, that phrase doesn’t mean what it used to mean, and many people who casually enjoy Star Wars movies but don’t really follow Star Wars news may not be so privy to what Rogue One actually is, even if the trailers appear to be self-explanatory. Trust me, there are many who still do not get it, and we are a mere two weeks away from the film’s release.
Many will be heading to the theater, expecting to see a continuation of The Force Awakens, with Episode VIII in the traditional “opening crawl” as it’s called, filling us in with the latest MacGuffin to the story. When they see that there is NO opening crawl, but rather a strange prologue, and the characters of Luke, Leia, Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo, etc. are no where to be found – well, they’ll be confused, and frankly a bit pissed at first. Heck, even the main character, Jyn Erso, is very comparable, and even looks similar to Rey from The Force Awakens for those that maybe only saw the film once a whole year ago, which makes it even more confusing. It will immediately start off on the “wrong” foot for the uninformed, which is unfortunate. This was always meant to be different, and we should all expect as much.
Sure, perhaps the film will be so great and a refreshing departure from what we have seen before that uniformed audiences will forgive their initial negative sentiments and end up enjoying themselves by the time the film ends. I truly hope this is the case. But something tells me we will be seeing link-bait headlines in our Facebook feeds the weekend after the movie opens saying things like “Fan Base Shattered by Latest Star Wars Movie,” or something to that effect. Mark my words, there will be “news” about this, claiming that Disney set false hopes for Rogue One.
As much as I would love to believe audiences are smart enough to see the previews and title of the movie and realize that this is something different – I just don’t have that much faith in humanity. Most people who don’t follow the news need to be spoon-fed the idea behind this movie so that they get it. Many people don’t even go to the movies or see previews, but attend the theater for Star Wars as a family event, tradition, etc., and are going into it completely blind.
This is not the next Star Wars movie they are expecting, which leads us to the next point in this article…
– Rogue One will not feel like a Star Wars movie.
Since this is the first standalone story in the Star Wars franchise (unless you count 2008’s The Clone Wars “movie,” or the two “made-for-TV” Ewok movies from the 80s), certain iconic trademarks of the previous films will not be present, or may not be present. This is on purpose, specifically designed to make the movie STAND ALONE. It is not a part of the “Saga Proper,” so there should be traits about the film that separate it from what we have come to know (and love) about Star Wars.
As mentioned above, Rogue One will not have an opening crawl. It will simply open with “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…”, followed a prologue introducing us to the story and all-new characters. The movie will then have a Rogue One title card that follows the prologue. It will begin much like a normal modern movie rather than your traditional Star Wars episode.
We can also see from the trailers that the movie is filmed in a significantly different style. It has more of a handheld type of feel to it all. It feels more gritty and serious – like a war film. Guess what? That is exactly what Lucasfilm asked director Gareth Edwards to deliver. In that aspect, the film will not be as lighthearted. It is highly likely the main protagonists of the film will die by the end (although this has not be confirmed).
In addition, the “Wipe Transitions” may not be present either. This has not been confirmed, but we might as well go into this movie NOT expecting scenes to transition in the same way visually. Check out the video below if these types of scene transitions don’t ring a bell…
The film will also not be scored by John Williams, who has proven to be the most iconic film composer of all time, and really the only one that has become a household name for nearly half a century. His Star Wars themes are so recognizable that even those that have never seen a Star Wars movie know exactly which franchise the music comes from.
The new composer for Rogue One is Michael Giacchino. But we shouldn’t be worried, as his IMDb resume lists a great many films that he contributed his talents to, including the new Star Trek films, Jurassic World and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I am sure his music will be wonderful, and will probably also pull from the John Williams library for certain familiar themes (Vader’s theme will probably pop up somewhere).
I do expect that Rogue One will feel somewhat like a Star Wars movie. It cannot feel completely foreign to what a Star Wars movie should look and feel like. There should be at least some familiarity to it all, and perhaps things like “Wipe Transitions” will still remain intact. We just don’t know for sure, but we should expect many traditional Star Wars traits to disappear with this first standalone story, and return only for the next episodes in the actual saga.
Going in to this expecting it to be exactly like what has come before is completely the wrong expectation, and will definitely put a damper on one’s enjoyment of this if they cannot accept the film for what it is: A gritty war movie that is connected, but at the same time disconnected from the saga. Lucasfilm has more standalone films down the pipeline (with the next being a standalone Han Solo origin story set for a 2018 release), so let’s just get over the differences and enjoy the fact that we’re getting something new and fresh introduced into this universe we all love so much.
It’s like going into Thanksgiving expecting turkey, but getting well-prepared duck instead. Just because it’s not turkey, doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. We just have to go in to the dinner expecting duck so as not to be let down.
– Darth Vader is not the main villain.
Okay, yes, Darth Vader is in the movie. We’ve seen him in the trailers, but not very much. While it is true that this movie is about the Rebels that steal the Death Star plans that eventually make their way into the hands of Princess Leia by the time the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV) begins, and it should be expected for Vader to at least be referenced in Rogue One – it will probably mostly be references. We will see him, but antagonists like Orson Krennic will be more of the main focus in terms of villains.
Not really much more to say except that, like it or not, the Star Wars episodes already focused heavily on Vader, and Rogue One will really need to focus on developing other characters for us to grow fond of, rather than giving us more of what we have already seen.
The above three points are really the main items that come to mind when trying to set expecations for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for the casual movie goer. But they are three very important items to keep in mind if we are to walk into this movie and actually enjoy it. It is so easy to get hung up on negatives based on uninformed expectations, that we forget to enjoy the film for what it was intended to be. It’s intentions are very noble, and should at least be given the chance to earn our appreciation – even if we end up not liking it as much as other Star Wars movies.
Come December 16th, we will all have our first impressions. It may even be worth seeing it a few time to simply let all the different qualities of the film sink in and gain acceptance by viewers. As with anything new, it usually takes time.
Besides, this is a great way to fill the gap between Star Wars episodes. We used to have to wait three years between films, and that was IF we were getting films. Now, under the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm, we are not only getting a new episode every other year, but a cool standalone story to fill the gaps in between each episode. How great a deal is that?!!
Plus, the trailers really do look impressive. Most impressive.