Thursday, April 21, 2016

MY TAKE ON: Rogue One and More Star Wars Stories to Come

The trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has me very excited, regardless if it fails to be a great movie. Its director Gareth Edwards doesn't have the resume to guarantee the vast potential of Rian Johnson helming Episode VIII, but as I keep saying to prequel apologists everywhere, George Lucas' non-involvement will only make for a better Star Wars movie.

The content in the trailer does something very important: It shows me footage of the prequel that I was never given. You see, it took a little bit of retrospective realization that the biggest mistake of Lucas' prequel trilogy was that it didn't work as the first three episodes in a six-episode saga. Episodes I - III give away all the big secrets of Episodes IV - VI. 

If Lucas had been more clever, he might have invented all new characters who represent good people of the Old Republic and are told to turn to the Jedi for help. Eventually, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker get involved as mystical supporting characters but never divulge details about how their powers work. Eventually, it is implied that Anakin Skywalker has been killed, the Empire rises and a scary Sith Lord named Darth Vader is leading massacres of the Jedi -and any people who will not bow to the new Emperor. We never see what Yoda looks like; the Emperor is barely shown; there certainly isn't a cartoonish unfunny character intended as comic relief for infants; but above all, the films atmosphere of costumes and technology appropriately lead up to the limited production style of the original.

Rogue One looks to be the closest thing to such a vision coming true. Its detachment from the Skywalker family and its invention of all-new characters who exist in a time that appears as if it could lead up to only the minutes before the first grand shot of the first Star Wars movie. 

If there was anything that I appreciated about the 1997 Special Editions of the original Trilogy, it was the use of modern tools to recreate the film's spaceships and show them doing a little bit more. I could delve further into my opinion of those re-issues and the concept of digitally doctoring classic movies in general, but I'll save it for another entry. I'll just say that thanks to this trailer I've seen a dozen Star Destroyers surrounding the Death Star as it receives its finishing touches and I'm very stoked. 

Edwards and his co-writers (which interestingly includes ILM digital pioneer John Knoll) are likely to make a self-serious movie lacking the light-hearted element that made The Force Awakens work for me, but it's still more than likely be more effective at doom-and-gloom melodrama, digital cinematography, and special effects than Lucas' attempt at doing the same with Revenge of the Sith

I have yet to see Felicity Jones as anything more than a one-note actress with a pretty face, but this movie may not require a lot of emotional range from her character. Forest Whitaker looks over-the-top, Mexican actor Diego Luna looks a lot like Biggs Darklighter but doesn't speak in the trailer, Genevieve O'Reilly gets a second chance to shine as Mon Mothma (and not wind up on the cutting room floor of an inept prequel) and the briefly-seen Ben Mendelsohn is sure to be excellent.

Alexandre Desplat is among the best composers working today and demonstrates more versatility than any I can think of. I am very exited to hear what unique touch he has on the film's atmosphere.

I'm hoping that Disney/Lucasfilm choose to stylistically liberate themselves from the other Star Wars films in the "Star Wars Story" series. They could exercise the right to utilize the normally scarce cinematic techniques of the existing seven movies (Slow-motion, flashbacks, etc). I'd also be very happy if they don't use the Star Wars Theme and opening crawl at the beginning of any of them, reserving Williams' most famous piece for where it counts. 

I'm running out of metaphors for how Lucas wronged his own creation, so I won't use any. The beauty in what's happening now is that even when a subpar filmmaker is given a Star Wars project, if they really love Star Wars then I guarantee you that they love it more than George Lucas does and it may inspire their best work.

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