by Justin Robert Torres
We are in the age of sequels, remakes, and adaptations running rampant throughout the marketplace of film. It cannot be ignored, and because Marvel has had so much success with their business model, every other studio is trying their hand at building cinematic universes. As much as I love catching smaller films at the theater like Barry Jenkins' Moonlight or Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha, I also can't deny the power of a great blockbuster. With so much to choose from in the current market, it's easy to find out what is for you and what isn't for you. I like the Marvel films, but I never find myself being too excited for them. I hated myself for sitting through Batman v. Superman, so I don't necessarily care for the future of the DCEU. Personally, I don't have a stake in any franchise. There's not much I look forward to other than some smaller films released theatrically throughout the year.
On April 7, 2016 that changed. The official Star Wars Youtube channel uploaded the first teaser trailer for Gareth Edwards' Rogue One and I was hooked. I felt like I finally found something that was for me. Marvel is fine and I respect what they're doing, but I'm not invested in any of it. Star Wars pretty much every year? I can get behind this! This was mainly because I loved The Force Awakens more than most people did. While not flawless, it's a film that is directed with such charisma I couldn't help but feel like a child throughout the runtime of the film. I tried my best to stay away from any other promotional material for Rogue One as the teaser was enough and I knew I was going to see it.
Opening night of the film, I walked in thinking “This is going to be a war film in the Star Wars universe and it's going to be great.” I walked out of the theater thinking “That was a generic action film with Star Wars stuff in it.” It's safe to assume I was quite disappointed. Forty-five minutes into Rogue One I realized I was incredibly bored and I kept waiting for something interesting to happen. I never understood why the characters made the choices they did. Even during the climax, the best scene in the film, I felt detached from everything going on. I kept wondering why at least half of the characters were even there.
The major problem for me comes from Disney, and everyone else, calling Rogue One a standalone film. If you bring a friend to this movie as their first experience with Star Wars, they would be lost. Rogue One is littered with references that reward viewers who have seen previous films in the franchise. There are entire conversations that are dependent on the audience's knowledge of what happens in A New Hope. Despite being a prequel, this film constantly goes “Remember this? Remember that?” There was even an applause for blue milk in my theater! And trust me, I'm not saying The Force Awakens is free from this criticism at all as J.J. Abrams will pretty much pause the film to allow the audience to clap during key moments. Those are the moments that annoy me the most. The problem with Rogue One doing this is simple: this seems to be the promise of what Star Wars in the future has to offer; more of the same with little pieces of new. It breaks my heart because Disney is in a situation where they can have their cake and eat it too. They can take a huge risk and still make the money they want to make.
Anything with the name Star Wars is going to have eyes drawn to it. It will make money. I'm not saying they need to make a big budget art house film. However, why can't there be a cyberpunk film set in this universe? Get Cliff Martinez to do the score and don't force him to sound like John Williams. Studios grab interesting indie filmmakers all the time and sign them on to make “meh” blockbusters. Why can't Disney do this and trust a director's vision? I can't sit here and say I'd direct a better film than Gareth Edwards, nor should I be a producer on these films. I probably shouldn't be a producer for any film, but Disney has the ability to take risks with this property. As an audience member that craves something new in a world full of sequels, remakes, and reboots, I want to see more big budget films that do things differently. Star Wars has the potential to be a vehicle for that. We continuously hear the ideas being thrown around of a Boba Fett or an Obi-Wan film. If we get those, I'm not sure if they will be standalone adventures, either. If they just keep taking pieces from the original trilogy and expanding upon them with their own spin-off films, we're never going to get anything new from Star Wars and it's guaranteed even the most die hard of fans will get bored.
The most disappointing thing about Rogue One was walking in feeling excited about the future of this franchise and walking out feeling cynical. However, I am in the minority on this film and people love it much more than I do, so I'm not gonna sit here and tell someone they're wrong for enjoying what they enjoy. I think like most people I just want something new. I don't want something "made for the fans." Just give me something new.