We’re now a little over a month away from the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and I’ve been noticing something very strange in the lead-up to it: quiet. There’s nowhere near the kind of hype and anticipation this year as there was in 2015 (and prior) leading up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To be fair, a lot of that was to do with the uncertainty of if a Disney-produced Star Wars would be any good, and not that we know, it’s more of a status quo thing. But, we really should all be much more excited for the film than we seem to be.
There is an argument to be made, if one were so inclined, that Rogue One is much more about filling in gaps than about being exposed to new and exciting adventures. Episode VIII will continue a saga we now have no precedent for, and a lot of mysteries will unravel. With Rogue One, we ultimately know the outcome, since the events lead directly into A New Hope. This is, I think, precisely why it’s such an exciting prospect. Much the same way the former-Expanded Universe/now-Legends gave a fuller picture of the Star Wars universe as a whole, so too will Rogue One show us a story we don’t know at all, with characters we never knew existed.
As much as I love the saga, and all its implications of the larger threat to the galaxy from the Empire, the movies themselves have, to this point, been almost myopically focused on the travails of the Skywalker clan and their friends. One of the best things to happen to the continuing narrative is Star Wars Rebels, which continues the themes and story lines begun in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but without the beholden connection to any of the films. There’s a lot of time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope; Rebels shows us a portion of the beginning, and Rogue One will show us the tail end.
Because this is an outlier of the saga–and, as far as we’ve seen, all the other non-numbered movies will be about pre-existing characters–it’s also very exciting how Gareth Edwards has shot the film. When he spoke to me and other journalists at Celebration Europe this summer, he talked about shooting the movie like a war documentary. There’s a lot of handheld photography and he allowed the actors dictate the blocking in the moment, which necessitated having extras ready at all times and camera crew wearing costumes in case they’re visible in the moving shots.
As a result, Rogue One will have a completely different visual style. Even with what we’ve seen so far in the trailers, especially the most recent one, there’s an attention to detail and a richness in color that has frankly never been seen in a Star Wars movie. From the Death Troopers to Director Krennic to the clips of the beach battle, this is going to be a gritty film, which is amazingly refreshing. There’s no reason why more and more movies of this type can’t be made in the universe, about parts of the war we’ve never known existed.
Oh, and let’s not for get another major reason I’m excited for the movie — scenes like this:
My hope is, because there’s markedly less hype–or at least less online fervor–for Rogue One, there’ll be less build-up and therefore we’ll be far more wowed than we expect. Since seemingly everyone had some idea of what The Force Awakens was going to be, or what they wanted it to be, there was more room for people nitpicking. Rogue One has the chance to be the first true test of what Disney can do with Star Wars in the long term. And that is far more exciting than 15 fleeting seconds of Darth Vader.
Let me know your excitement level for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in the comments below!