Star Wars: Rogue One And The Fate Of The Solo Movies
By now everybody and their mother in-law’s gerbil has seen the Star Wars: Rogue One trailer and marvelled at the “the same but different” vibe radiating from the brief glimpses we’re teased with on screen. Who’s that girl? Are those tanks hovering? Blimey… that dish looks enormous etc. It’s great because as with The Force Awakens, we’re being whisked away to uncharted territory as we are introduced to new characters plotting to do a thing in a world we’re thoroughly invested in.
Although we know the final outcome of their mission we have no idea of the teams’ fate or that of the mysterious antagonists they will be facing. The stakes remain high because of this and I’m thrilled that Disney and Lucasfilm opted to open their secondary tier of Star Wars features with a tale we know next to nothing about. A fresh cast of players in familiar environments set upon a pre-established cinematic universe.
The last time we had any pre- A New Hope; Star Wars movies they were written and directed by a man who had lost his grasp on the legacy he birthed. With nobody to temper his ego or legitimately help him through difficult decisions George Lucas ran naked through the streets, his producer Rick McCallum praising the stylistic choices made by his emperor, while the whole world looked on in fear at George’s oddly tanned Gungans.
For better or worse, the prequels gave us new worlds, new characters, an epic love story, an entirely new visual aesthetic and some of the worst dialogue, performances and plotting ever witnessed in a billion dollar franchise. Over the course of three movies we knew where we were going, who would survive, who would be betrayed and who would become whose parents. Anybody growing up with the classic trilogy in their hearts would come to their own imaginative conclusions as to what the Clone Wars were, and nothing Lucas could come up with would ever equal the collective imaginations of girls and boys the world over. We were given fresh, bold stylistic choices with story beats seemingly written by a ten year old.
After Rogue One this December and Episode VIII in December 2017 comes the second (awfully titled) Star Wars Story on May 5th 2018. Not a sequel to the Rogue One adventure, but a Han Solo origin tale directed by The LEGO Movie’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. It may just be the cynical fashion in which this film is steamrolling ahead, or the peculiarity of what seems like a backward move after such an interesting concept for Rogue One but I’m not entirely sold on this future prequel.
If the history of modern blockbusters has taught us anything it’s that pandering to an impassioned fan-base leads to the likes of Sam Raimi having to shoehorn Venom into his (mostly silver age inspired) Spider-Man Trilogy or Fox’s X-Men franchise basically becoming The Wolverine Show, proving you can have too much of a good thing.
The headache of recasting such a legendary character with a young pup aside, I’m certain the bean counters at Disney think they’re on to a good thing. Taking (arguably) the franchise’s most beloved character and telling a “how it all began” type story would unveil the mystery in a way we previously endured in the prequels and umpteen Horror franchises over the last decade or so. Frankly, part of the appeal of characters like Leatherface, Hannibal Lektor and Han Solo is the ambiguity of their pasts. Finding out how Han and Chewbacca met or how the Millennium Falcon was acquired seem like a side note and not the foundations with which to base a movie.
But again with the toothless origins.
In a couple of months we have a shiny new X-Men movie that has been trailering for a while now. Set in the 80s, decades prior to the original continuity, we have a good idea who survives for future installments. Hugh Jackman’s Dorothy’esque Wizard of Oz ending in the last movie, where he greeted the older incarnations of the team means there’s little hope for surprises at who will survive this year’s retro Apocalypse.
The Star Wars prequels suffered a similar fate where the threat was neutered. Not because we already knew the final outcome of the plot, but more by the fact that we were already aware of the fates of Obi-Wan, Anakin and Yoda. Unlike Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso in Rogue One, we know Han and Chewie live to fight another day and with those diminished stakes we trundle toward the final of the three announced Star Wars Stories, which is rumoured to be a Boba Fett movie.
Listen carefully as I will say this only once.
Looking cool and being cool are in fact two very different things.
Retroactively manipulating the status quo will never undo the fact that although “kinda bad-ass looking”, Boba Fett got Mr. Magoo’ed into the belly of a giant sand thing in Return of the Jedi. Of all the proposed Star Wars features in development this truly feels like an attempt to appease a fan base slighted by decades of broken heartedness for the fate of a beloved character.
Don’t get me wrong; if you slap Star Wars on it, money shall be made and I’ll probably go a watch it. But to paraphrase another classic movie; Lucasfilm is so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
X-Men: Apocalypse hits theatres May 18th.
Star Wars: Rogue One opens in the UK this December.
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