Well, I can’t do it any longer. I think I’ve contained myself long enough and, after watching RedLetterMedia’s review on YouTube of The Force Awakens and the future of the Star Wars franchise, I think it’s about time that I share my excitement over the latest entry in the Star Wars series, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I only reference the RedLetterMedia review because I really appreciated its review of the Star Wars prequels, as it sophisticatedly pointed out the flaws and missed opportunities of the trilogy. Looking at Disney’s acquisition of the franchise and the most recent release in the series, The Force Awakens, however, the RedLetterMedia reviewer thinks that future Star Wars films will feel rather heartless and mechanical when compared to the original trilogy. To a certain degree, I couldn’t disagree more.
To start, for those who aren’t aware, Rogue One follows a squad of Rebel fighters who steal the plans for the Death Star just before the start of the series’s first film, A New Hope. The RedLetterMedia reviewer feels that Rogue One is pretty pointless because the audience already knows the outcome of the movie—the Death Star plans are successfully delivered to the Rebel Alliance. I, on the other hand, feel that this aspect of the film, among others, actually gives Rogue One a chance to delineate from the typical formula that most adventure films follow.
Speaking of the tone of the film on a panel at last year’s Star Wars Celebration, an annual fest promoting all things Star Wars, director Gareth Edwards highlighted the noted difference in tone between previous films in the series and Rogue One.
“It’s about the fact that God’s not coming to save us, and we’re on our own now,” Edwards said. “The absence of the Jedi is omnipresent in the film. It hangs over the whole film.”
Now, if you’re at all familiar with Star Wars films, this is in stark contrast to the messages relayed to audiences throughout most of the saga. Sure, some will point to Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace and say, “Hey, that’s some pretty dense stuff to sort through,” but I’d remind them that Anakin, the main character of the first six movies, is ultimately redeemed. Evil is present and powerful in these films, but it is not the victor.
With the way I see Rogue One playing out, however, the future of the cast of characters that assemble in this film looks pretty grim. It’s important to note that none of the characters that have appeared in the trailers for the film—characters that make up the film’s titular squad—is seen in any other media that is set chronologically after Rogue One. With this in mind, it’s hard for Star Wars fans, who are well aware of the Empire and Vader’s ruthlessness, to picture a happy ending for the band of soldiers that go on this ludicrous mission.
At that same panel I mentioned earlier, Edwards called Rogue One a war film. When the panel’s moderator, Pablo Hidalgo, asked if films like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down inspired his vision, Edwards didn’t back down:
“It’s the reality of war,” Edwards said. “Good guys are bad. Bad guys are good. It’s complicated, layered; a rich scenario in which to set a movie.”
And Edwards is right. Since the majority of us know how this movie will end, there’s a lot to play with in the journey leading to our end destination. Anything is game in Rogue One, especially considering the film’s inclusion of Darth Vader, who, as the film’s poster suggests, will be looming over everyone’s shoulders. The latest trailer depicts these large-scale battles set in these unprecedented settings for Star Wars films. Sure, we’ve been to icy planets, volcanic planets, and jungle planets, but the tropics? Hell, that’s all anyone needed to say to pique my interest.
So, in my view, there are two ways Star Wars fans are looking at the future of our beloved series: the cynical view and the hopeful one. I for one, seeing as this is Star Wars we’re talking about, tend to stay on the hopeful side of things. Sure, there’s a lot to be said about the reuse of a lot of the series’s tropes in The Force Awakens, but I’d like to think that the film’s screenwriters, J.J. Abrams and Larry Kasdan, knew exactly what they were facing when they put together the script, and that the brain behind Episode VIII, Rian Johnson, is looking to take the remainder of the new trilogy in a new direction. In the meantime, we’ve got a war epic to look forward to.
Featured Image By Lucasfilms