Bringing Balance in Star Warsby Todd King, contributing writer
All Quiet on the Galaxy Front
Although Star Wars seems to be all around us and always giving the feeling that something is always happening, the franchise is kind of quiet right now. Disney has begun constructing the two Star Wars lands in California and Florida; there's not much more than grounds being leveled at this point, but things look to be speeding up in the near future.
Season 2 of Disney Channel's Star Wars Rebels ended this past March with positive reactions, and a third season is forthcoming. Episode VIII is soon to be wrapping up principal photography (so they hint). The Force Awakens just officially ended its record-breaking theatrical run (even though it's been on Blu-ray Disc for a couple months already). But, is that all that's not-happening?
Rogue One Reshoots
Rogue One is getting a few headlines because of its reshoots. Usually, big-budget movie reshoots don't make headlines like this one has. Rumors circled that Disney wasn't happy with the cut of the movie and ordered something like 40 percent of the movie completely redone. Other rumors dismissed those earlier ones, saying that reshoots are always part of movie production, and this is nothing more. I'm in the latter camp, believing the reshoots to be just the producers polishing the film. I hope that's all.
There was yet another rumor that suggested Disney wanted to "fix" the movie by adding in more recognizable Star Wars things like lightsabers and Jedi because they thought it wasn't up to the level of The Force Awakens and needed some of its ingredients. There were many fans who didn't like this idea, me among them; I want Rogue One to stay true to its purpose at the outset as a stand-alone movie, separate from the primary saga. Other fans are open to such ideas, especially after the well-received inclusion of Darth Vader in Rebels. In the end, I just think our curiosity, accompanied by our anticipation, is getting the better of us, and we're conjecturing without all the information. Still, I can't shake the feeling that something about the movie has changed at this point, and we can only wait to discover the truth.
Balancing the Force in the Movies
After all this banter on rumors for December's movie, it has led me to believe that Rogue One probably has one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, problems to solve: how to be a Star Wars movie without totally being a Star Wars movie.
Think about it: The Force Awakens set out to be wholeheartedly a Star Wars movie, even in spite of itself. It did succeed in truly being a Star Wars movie in its look, feel, sound, plot, and characters, and most of the criticism it got was for being too much of a Star Wars movie. Many reviews said it rehashed too many similar plots and devices from the original trilogy. At the same time, the movie was praised for being clearly identifiable as a Star Wars movie where it incorporated the fun, the mystery, and the character arcs of the old ones. Now that it finished its theatrical run and the numbers are in, we know it was absolutely a financial and critical success. And yeah, fans liked it, too.
However, Rogue One has to incorporate the elements of setting, pacing, plot, and characters of a Star Wars movie but be able to stand on its own as a different kind of Star Wars movie. It has to do this, and connect with fans, and be a success at the box office. It has to do this without a Skywalker, without Jedi, without the usual ingredients. And it has to hit profit margins so that Disney and Lucasfilm will make more. The "episode" movies were going to happen anyway, and The Force Awakens proved that they will be fine and accepted. The spin-off movies are a whole new thing. Disney already plans to release more of them, but there is a great deal that hinges on this first one. If it doesn't do well, movie-goers may be hesitant to see the next one. It's a matter of trust, and after Episode VII, I believe Disney/Lucasfilm have earned our trust; the movie was more than just accepted, it was loved. So how do you get Rogue One to have the right balance of new stuff and Star Wars stuff and still tell its own story in the same galaxy and be an all-around success? Probably need some magic.
Movie magic will bring it all together but to strike that balance, the movie's spirit and goal have to be in the right place. The Force Awakens needed to be a good Star Wars movie that was also a good movie on its own. Rogue One must be a good movie that happens to be a Star Wars movie. As Lucasfilm builds its new side fiction, Rogue One must stand on its own and be that side story the franchise needs.
What I hope for the most is that Rogue One accomplishes these ideas without resorting to too much fan-service. There will be fan-service, we can be sure of that, but it shouldn't need to throw it in just for the sake of a fan-service quota. By fan-service I mean, for examples, just adding in a character that's related to Leia or a principal character, or revealing the Emperor as the original owner of R2-D2, or having Boba Fett show up and disintegrating someone much to Vader's chagrin… wait, that last one might actually be cool, no wait don't add that—argh! I'm guilty myself of wanting such things. If director Gareth Edwards, the heads at Lucasfilm, or even Disney thinks the movie's gotta have more Star Wars-y references, then my hope is that they be in service of the story. Such things should be at the will of the movie's goal: be awesome without relying on cheap tricks.
A New Source – The Star Wars Show
Disney is trying a new way to connect with Star Wars fans. Last month, the official Star Wars YouTube channel launched a new show called, simply, "The Star Wars Show." They present a new episode every Wednesday, with additional episodes appearing at random. It is shot from within Lucasfilm headquarters with hosts Andi Gutierrez and Peter Townley in a nicely decorated room with a few trinkets from the films and a TIE Fighter coffee table, and they are sometimes joined by a mouse droid named Cheese (isn't that the name of the mouse in the Tinker Bell movies? … yes, I've seen them—besides, I'm surprised the droid didn't get named Mickey).
The program shows footage and reports news on all Star Wars media, from the films to the TV show, announces contests like the fan-film competition, and gives information on upcoming events like Celebration in London this July and the next Celebration in April 2017 in (where else?) Orlando. The hosts also conduct celebrity interviews, and most recently interviewed Dennis Muren, a long-time Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) special effects artist. It has been an interesting show so far, and I expect things to get much more exciting the closer we get to the next movie release.
An episode of "The Star Wars Show" on YouTube featuring Dennis Muren, Star Wars table top games, and Star Wars Fan Film Awards news. © Star Wars.
It is nice to have an official show like this to get some information from within the company in a short, less-than-10-minute video format. I look forward to seeing more. Since it is official, it is not going to delve too much into what fans are discussing online; there are plenty of outlets, including YouTube and here at MousePlanet, where Disney and Star Wars fans can openly discuss these news and events. But with seemingly little exciting news to report on for our favorite galaxy, it is refreshing to have this new streaming series. I just wonder if Disney and company also realized this same dry spell of events, too, and chose this late-spring season to launch the show? So far it has a lot of variety, and seems open to any kind of feature, so there's no telling what to expect next. I recommend subscribing.
The Half–Year Point
I've spoken about our seeming dearth of information these days, and I think it stems from our particular point in the calendar. We are a half-year gone from the previous movie, The Force Awakens, and we have a half-year more to go until the next, Rogue One. It makes me think the pendulum is about to swing, and pretty soon, we'll get a new trailer for Rogue One and perhaps by late fall we could get a teaser for Episode VIII. A new season of Rebels will be coming, and hopefully as the bulldozers and dump trucks in the two U.S. parks break and level more ground, we will get details, names, layouts, drawings, and drafts of Star Wars land. While I'm curious about the rides, I'm anticipating learning as many details as I can about this expansion's creative process. What are the intentions of Disney imagineers for this Star Wars experience? What do they hope to accomplish and what are their goals for the guests? I hope my curiosity doesn't get the best of me, again.