The side story has had plenty of missteps on the journey to the big screen.
Few films generate the furor of a new Star Wars. Over the last thirty-nine years, each film has been met with greater expectations than the last. Just look at 2015’s The Force Awakens; it unleashed box office fury upon the competition. Disney is hoping to replicate some of that success with a new stand-alone feature, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Although it shares the same timeline as the previous films, it is a far greater risk. It hasn’t helped that the production has seen plenty of issues including of costly reshoots. Nevermind that it doesn’t contain the hook of bringing back the cast from original trilogy. Will audiences show up for a feature that promises to be one of the darkest Star Wars, without a Jedi in sight?
Director Gareth Edwards has said multiple times that he expects this to be the darkest entry yet. When speaking to an audience at the Star Wars Celebration, he said “It’s called Star Wars, [the movie is] about the fact that God’s not coming to save us, and we’re on our own.” That sounds significantly different from the film that introduced BB-8 to the world. Another change includes the lack of Jedi in the story at all. Audiences may remember that after the events of Revenge of the Sith, the remaining Jedi went into hiding until Luke’s appearance in A New Hope. Rogue One is focusing on the moments between those two movies, the capturing of the Death Star’s schematics, that reveals a flaw in its design.
Movie trailers are fantastic at building hype for movies and bringing audiences to the multiplexes. They are also a great way to deflect attention from behind-the-scenes issues. Page Six discovered that Rogue One underwent extensive reshoots over the summer because Disney executives were not happy with the first cut Edwards delivered. One of the many bright spots of The Force Awakens, was a return to what made the Original Trilogy so memorable, the humor and heart in the story. Director Gareth Edwards previous film, Godzilla, was big special-effects bonanza without those same attributes.
Disney was quick to squash the rumors as a routine fix. They said, “The film making team and the studio always anticipated additional shooting and second unit work to make the film the absolute best it can be, and the actors were aware there would be additional shooting.” Certainly films have to get extra shots later in production that might have been missed the first time around, but this seems more significant. Director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Bourne Legacy) was mentioned to have joined the production and oversee the “five weeks” of additional footage. Gilroy was empowered by Disney to take the lead on post-production and make changes to the ending which supposedly leads straight into Star Wars: A New Hope. While it isn’t too hard to believe Gilroy is involved (he did assist Edwards with Godzilla as well), Disney didn’t feel confident with the project solely in the hands of Edwards.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story also has the unfortunate task of proving there is a market for additional Star Wars stories outside the main entries. The Force Awakens brought back beloved characters such as Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker. Rogue One will be the first screen appearance of Darth Vader, one of movies’ all-time greatest villains, since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. The question will be if his presence will bring those same audiences back for what is essentially a side story. Rogue One doesn’t bring the same sense of nostalgia that The Force Awakens managed.
Expectations for Rogue One are already being diminished by Disney CEO Bob Iger. “We never felt [Rogue One] would do the level that Force Awakens did,” Iger told an audience of investors. Well it shouldn’t be that much of shock that they don’t expect it to match the third highest grossing film of all-time. A new, diverse cast of characters, a director who hasn’t proven that he can be successful at this level, and significant reshoots certainly don’t scream all-time best box-office either. Disney is taking a big gamble on not only the fortunes of other Star Wars side stories, such as the Young Han Solo movie in production, but also the box-office take of Star Wars: Episode VIII. Should Rogue One be received negatively by audiences, it could have a far reaching effect on the entire futures of Star Wars. While the brand may seem impervious to outsiders, a poorly regarded film can reduce box office takes and make audiences wary of future entries. Just look at the critical damage DC’s Extended Universe has done with their own brand for evidence of expanding a franchise poorly.
Even the most egregious estimates would assume Rogue One will do fine at the box office. The bigger question will be how audiences react to film and how it will effect future Star Wars installments. Making a story “dark” just because other films found success doesn’t mean it is the right move for Star Wars. Needing significant reshoots to reshape the film to fit the franchise sounds even more troublesome. Hopefully, Gareth Edwards and Disney have made a film fans can be satisfied with. Otherwise, Rogue One will be remembered as fondly as the prequel trilogy of Star Wars. That is something absolutely no one wants.