Spoiler? If you are hardcore about spoilers avoid this for now. I think everything I mention here about Rogue One is common knowledge and more or less confirmed in official sources or else widely discussed in podcasts and on twitter.
Seven Star Wars movies. I still giggle with joy at the thought of that. We have seven Star Wars movies to watch over and over again. We fans have pored over every frame, dissected every element, tweeted Pablo about every contradiction or open question and blogged the daylights out of them. These movies are part of our culture, and, more to the point, part of us. So, needless to say, these movies have established and reaffirmed a precedent—a Star Wars way of storytelling. A formula if you will. Oooh, formula. A cringe-worthy word, but I don’t mean it that way. I just mean that there is a certain way to make a Star Wars movie that makes it “Star Wars.” There are tropes and storytelling methods ingrained into them. You wouldn’t put wands and wizards in the next standalone nor would you a warp drive. Celine Dion isn’t going to sing the main theme and Quentin Tarantino isn’t going to direct a cool but convoluted nonlinear parallel stories plot. And we always, always have an expository crawl with a pan down to a planet over a John Williams score. Always. Period. I got seven movies to prove that.
So that’s that. Nice discussion.
Wait…what? Rogue One? It will be different? And it’s a Star Wars story? No crawl, a flashback, no Williams score! Can we handle this!
Yes we can. Different is a good thing, right? Didn’t Yoda say, “Different leads to diversity. Diversity leads to broader experiences informing art. Broader experience informing art leads to innovative and enjoyable films.” I think that was the quote. I could be remembering wrong. Either way, He has a point. And different isn’t so different for Star Wars.
The original trilogy obviously set the precedent. So, those movies were themselves different, by definition. They were a new kind of movie—a space fantasy. Different from the grit and depression of the 70’s. Different from other genre movies, mainly because of the revolutionary special effects. Different in the pace of storytelling (“Faster, more intense!”). Star Wars was new. Of course it borrowed themes and story structures from the past, but that’s OK. Most stories do. Well, all stories do. Lucas created a brand new kind of movie. By the end of Jedi we all knew what a Star Wars movie looked like and felt like.
But he wasn’t done with different. The prequels had a crawl and pan down and John Williams music and other familiar Star Wars elements. However, Lucas was innovative. He tried something different. And he paid a price for it. He pushed the limits of technology and took risks with his plot. I will probably never love the prequels, but I have learned to appreciate Lucas’s attempt to be different—to be creative. That will always be respected. If I could, I wouldn’t change a thing. Lucas gave us his vision. We got Star Wars and we got different. Furthermore, the most controversial SW character, Jar Jar, was himself a play on that theme of being different. I like to think of him as Lucas’s middle finger to the Star Wars establishment (that he created). Fans who grew up on the new (different) movies embraced it, those who did not, like myself, feared the them. We were too comfortable in our Star Wars bubble. Too long perhaps passed with only the OT to watch, reinforcing all familiar visual styles and character types. Like the dark side, it clouded our vision. I think that there is a lesson to be learned there.
Then came The Force Awakens. TFA, as much as I enjoyed the movie, played it safe. That’s not a criticism. J.J. did exactly what he needed to do. But some critics and fans disagreed. It wasn’t different.
Internet, make up your mind!
Now with the approaching Rogue One, I’m hearing grumblings about the departures form the Star Wars norm. Specifically some big departures from what we expect to see in Star Wars. No, not Celine Deon, but some changes not even Lucas was ready to tackle. Personally I don’t have a problem with it. When you think about it, who reading this blog is “normal?” (Not one of you, I bet, of the 4 or 5 that will read this). Let’s embrace it. Let’s see what an infusion of creativity and risk can produce. After all, this is a standalone film. Maybe this is the start of a new precedent. Or maybe the precedent will be that there are no more precedents. With Chris Miller and Phil Lord on the horizon that may be true. With attacks to deviations from normal coming from our leadership out of universe, I think we need to celebrate “different” in universe as much as we can.