Earlier this year, I wrote this piece, in which I laid out my fears about the new Star Wars spin-off film Rogue One.
At that point my concern was not that there were re-shoots – re-shoots of tentpole films are now so common they are actually built into the shooting and special effects schedule.
Rather, my concern was the rumored reason for the re-shoots – that the cut delivered by director Gareth Edwards was “too dark” and “too much like a war movie” for a Disney-owned family-friendly Star Wars movies which, by its very nature, is designed to sell action figures and video games to children.
My fear was that, in purportedly turning its back on a darker tone and more adult themes, Disney was setting a terrible precedent for its expanded Star Wars franchise – boxing themselves into more re-treads a la The Force Awakens.
Light spoilers below. DO NOT READ if you have not yet seen Rogue One.
I shouldn’t have worried.
A truism of the current Hollywood studio structure is that, as blockbuster-, sequel- and re-boot-centric as it is, the people actually in charge at Disney (here, Kathleen Kennedy) are very smart.
Last year’s The Force Awakens accomplished its primary mission: to erase the bad taste of the prequels and get people actually excited about Star Wars movies again.
To me: the one goal of Rogue One was to expand the canon of acceptable stories.
As the 8th movie in the franchise so far, it’s the first one that does not revolve around the Skywalker family.
As such – and because it’s a one-off filler movie not directly in continuity with Episodes VII-IX, it was the first (and best) chance Disney had to expand the brand by daring to do something different within the Star Wars universe.
To me (and many others) it did just this, and delivered. In spades.
While it has elements of humor and far more cameos from familiar faces than I expected, this film showed exactly what I wanted to see given the plot – the story of the small group of rebels charged with stealing the Death Star plans that Princess Leia hid in R2D2 in the opening minutes of the original Star Wars.
Rogue One is visceral, violent, and shockingly bleak, even as it ends on the theme of a new hope.
While not a brand pivot for Star Wars, it represents a brilliant case study in brand extension.
I’m happy to admit I was wrong in my post in June. Then, I wrote,
“In nixing an (appropriately) original, darker and (most importantly) original Rogue One so early, Disney is sabotaging the long-term potential of the Star Wars brand itself.”
They did not, in fact nix any of the above.
By effectively telling a self-contained, violent story with all new characters, Disney vastly expanded the possibilities for dozens of smaller, off-beat Star Wars universe stories to come.
I’m happy to say I – and many others – will await them eagerly.