It’s hard to believe, but in just under two months (as of this writing), moviegoers will once again return to the galaxy far, far away in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The first in (presumably) a long line of standalone spinoffs in the franchise, the film has been steadily building buzz throughout the year. Many fans are impressed by director Gareth Edwards’s vision of a war drama in space, with the trailers suggesting that this installment will be quite different from the ones that have come before. Though Star Wars fans are a bunch that have a mixed history with prequels, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Rogue One, which reveals how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans to the original Death Star.
Making a Star Wars film is a tremendous undertaking for a director, since the property’s wide following means that the project will be under a heavy amount of scrutiny. Especially today, with Disney’s intention to release a new movie in the series each year, there’s constant pressure on the creative team to get things “right” so that interest in the brand remains high. That’s a responsibility Edwards did not take lightly, and it was always his goal to craft the best narrative possible.
In an interview with EW (which also shared the below image of Jyn Erso with the Rebels), Edwards discussed the approach to Rogue One, which differed somewhat from most films since the ending to the story was already known:
“The thing every [filmmaker] typically struggles with is ‘How does it end?’ But we knew how our film was going to end. Our problem became ‘How do we reverse engineer from that and know where to start?’ You’ve got a finite number of options and you go through them all like a puzzle to find the one that’s going to lead to the strongest result.”
For Edwards, his journey led him to a familiar place for Star Wars: a tale of a parent and their offspring. Based on the most recent trailer, the emotional core of Rogue One is the relationship between Jyn and her father Galen, a scientist who was instrumental in designing the Death Star. In addition to saving the galaxy, Jyn’s mission has a personal layer where she will try to find Galen and rescue him from the clutches of the Empire. The elder Erso may have aided in the super weapon’s construction, but he feels extreme guilt for what he’s done and wants to redeem his family’s name. Speaking with USA Today (which had the below picture of Jyn and K-2SO), Edwards explained the main hook of Rogue One:
“Events take place that just shatter her life and send her off to basically be raised as a soldier in the midst of a war. She ends up not the person she was supposed to be. Even though we’re not telling the story of Luke Skywalker, it was important to me that we capture the same themes and emotion. But the film doesn’t unfold how you think. It’s not the same path as Star Wars.”
Many viewers will be pleased to hear that there are some twists and turns in store for Rogue One. A common criticism of last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens (even from those who thoroughly enjoyed it) was that the movie stuck a little too close to the story beats of the original trilogy films. The main appeal of the anthologies is that they can blend multiple genres and tones with the classic Star Wars feel, so it’s encouraging that Edwards isn’t following the “same path” as his predecessors. Several of the new characters and locations sound highly intriguing, and hopefully they’ll all flesh the universe out effectively while bringing new ideas to the table. Some similarities are to be expected in a long-running series entry, but it would be a wasted opportunity if Rogue One was just a repeat.
With Lucasfilm’s marketing campaign basically complete (save for the inevitable TV spots), all fans have left to do is count down the days until the film reaches theaters. Disney is smartly managing commercial expectations, but Rogue One is poised to be one of the biggest hits of the holiday season. Especially if it does deliver a truly different experience than the older Star Wars movies and gets boosted by strong word-of-mouth, these Rebels could endear themselves to audiences as much as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.