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Rogue One: Freedom in the Anthologies

Written by Dustin Molina

Star Wars has always had a fairly strict set of rules. Not just within the Star Wars universe, but how the actual films are put together. Though not always explicitly: we know these rules. Star Wars is a genre unto itself, and like with any other genre film, we and the filmmakers have a signed a tacit agreement where they give us what we have come to expect from these type of stories. The opening title crawl and fanfare, the edit wipes, and someone saying “May the Force be with you” and “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” Even beyond the tangible things we see in the film, we have come to expect a certain narrative flow to the Star Wars stories. For the most part, each Star Wars film adheres to an action film structure wherein every 10-15 minutes we are given an action sequence. Though people may not notice this, it is the main reason you are hardly ever bored when watching a Star Wars film (except when George Lucas considered political theater and pod racing to be action scenes in the prequels). We need these things to happen in a Star Wars film and there isn’t too much wiggle room.

With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the rules may finally be able to be broken.

Or at least bent.

When Disney first announced the idea of the Star Wars Anthology films, I was hesitant. Making films focusing on the origins Han Solo and Boba Fett seemed more like cash grabs than something people really wanted to see. However, as more and more information came about the first of these anthology films, one about the Rebels who stole the plans to the Death Star, my views changed. I started hearing that there may be no title crawl to the film, that the cast was mainly minority groups, and most importantly, from the mouth of Gareth Edwards, the film would feel like a traditional war film.

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Upon hearing these things, I started to realise that the anthology films could do something the Saga films could never do: change. Rogue One doesn’t have to follow the normal Star Wars formula, because it it not a normal Star Wars film. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a great film, one would be hard-pressed to say that it didn’t follow the Star Wars formula to the T (some would go as far as saying it more of a remake than a sequel). With Rogue One and all the anthologies, we can see new stories in the Star Wars universe told in new ways.

Along with this new freedom in storytelling, Rogue One also, story-wise, boasts an emotional gravitas that has yet to be seen in the Star Wars universe. Sure we have seen parents obliterated, planets destroyed, and orphans abandoned, but the Saga films take all of these moments with a grain of salt. Things move so quickly in Star Wars, that we are hardly ever are asked to take on the true emotional weight of a situation. It happens time and time again in these films. When Obi-Wan dies, we head right into space battle. When Alderaan is blown up, the group is immediately captured. When Han Solo is killed, we immediately head into a blaster battle and then two light saber battles.  Star Wars has never asked us to seriously consider death.

With Rogue One, we may finally have to come to terms with death and the evils of the war as we focus on the bit players in the universe and their stories. Though we know the mission, to capture the plans for the Death Star, is a success (it is the first thing we are told in the opening crawl of A New Hope), we never see or hear about many of these Rogue One characters ever again. Though it could just be me reading into things, it is not such a big leap to believe that many of the characters, including protagonist Jyn Erso, may not make it out the film alive. While Rogue One is being promoted simply at the story of the mission to get the plans for the Death Star, the deeper story is more of a rag-tag, Dirty Dozen-esque story, depicting the beginnings of the Rebellion. Much like your average Star Wars film, these type of stories come with their own set of rules, number one being that many, if not all the soldiers in the group will die.

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But this is good.

Rogue One is forcing us to look at the Stars Wars universe in a different way. Different than how we had been looking at every other one of these films. By breaking its own mold, Rogue One has the possibility of being the most emotionally gripping of all these films, while still giving us more of the Star Wars world we love. Devoted fanboys may cry afoul about how it is just a war story with a Star Wars lacquer on it, but they are looking at this all wrong. The Star Wars universe has grown beyond just the movies. It is a living, breathing world filled with characters and people who aren’t always playing with light sabers and talking about the Force. So whether it’s a somewhat comedic, heist movie about early Han Solo, or a cat-and-mouse story involving young Boba Fett, it can still be a Star Wars story. By giving us a fresh take on the world we know, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can begin to breathe new life and new opportunities into the beloved series.

What do you think of the Star Wars Stories? Pointless, or exciting, new terrain to explore? Sound off in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Dustin Molina

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