“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
1. Director: Gareth Edwards
I rewatched Revenge of The Sith immediately after I first saw The Force Awakens and was happy that Episode III still stood up as my favourite. One of those reasons is the Battle of the Heroes’ on Mustafar, and to a lesser extent Utapau. You don’t find these places on location in the desert like in old and new films, they were created in George Lucas’ head. I think that’s mainly what he’s getting at here. People are nostalgic for the old trilogy. I get that, but that references a time when there was nothing. Can we still ignore that? Can a B-level imitator [compared to prince-level homage Abrams]? I think the new directors working today like Edwards and Abrams are so heavily inspired by Spielberg, the former with Godzilla and the latter with Super 8 that in paying homage so much they forget that they are no longer just in the audience anymore and forget to carve out a new space for themselves to give something new to the audience.
2. Giving more weight to the old than the new: “Darth Vader is back!” -[As if he ever left.]
Take a look at the poster to the right: notice anything? The shadow of Darth Vader looms large, persisting over the shoulders our hero Jyn Erso played by another English actress [following in the footsteps of Daisy Ridley]. Now it makes complete sense given this is a prequel to the very first film in which Darth Vader plays a part, and that given his place in the universe it would be hard to tell this story without him. What bothers me is after the first trailer, partly as a tactic to kick the campaign into hyperdrive they started showing him more and more. With Episode VII leaning a bit heavier on the old and repeating, I worry such will come about that we aren’t getting our lore’s worth. There’s still likely some story that can be told about Vader post-Skywalker, I just hope that it is different enough and fresh enough or perhaps doesn’t loom as largely as the poster suggests. We don’t need a Hobbit conflict to drag on an already completed story. We know how the story ends, it’s just a matter of how it gets there. Hopefully in a consistently entertaining way.
3. A slightly uneven tone: A wars film/ a new Disney hope & return shoots
Now reshoots are par for the course when it comes to modern-day blockbusters. It is arguable if this was intended for Lucasfilm, as the release date for Episode VIII was pushed back due to some rewrites, and the film’s tone (supposedly a war film, less of a star kind) taken by the director reportedly presents a challenging contrast with the Disney family brand. What can this effect really?
It could further genericize the film, dulling its impact. The summer reshoots, if they are half of the forty-percent the gossip sites are spreading, blunt the effect of the film in all sorts of ways. Musically for one, the newly added film portions are cut in, offering up the score to be re-written. In response the Disney magicians conjured up the Oscar-winning ‘Up’ composer to replace the latter day Harry Potter one.
In order to further make things work, Disney, who can be spoken of in this moment [and at the end of a record year] as being at the ever top of their game, has to hit a hard target. Offer up a Star Wars film, arguably without heavy use of lightsabers, jedi the force, or much of its established characters, and build a backdoor into a limiting canon. If anyone can turn this one into a winner they can. Lets call it a three-quarter billion dollar one, and even then it still might face either the challenge of accidentally overshadowing or curbing anticipation for a bigger project or perpetuate further old problems of its ghostly Star Wars predecessor.
It’s been well established The Force Awakens is callback and blueprint heavy. Reiterating on my earlier point, due to the nature of being a Lucas-less prequel rather than a sequel, I doubt there will be anything game-changing in the galaxy. There may be some canonical tweaks that are probably deserved: a la Leia being force-sensitive, but I suspect with the continued path of stylish coasting on the old, the brand might likely stretch itself inward unto an identity crisis. Or it could go the other way and be nothing but a forgettable one-off. The jury is still out on the impact of Episode VII. As much as I liked it, I find it hard to say its breeziness carries the weight of its predecessors.
The Bottom Line:
If you look at the four of the other operating Disney brands at their lowest points: Animation’s The Black Cauldron, Pixar’s Cars 2, Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, Live Action’s Around the World in 80 days, could it simply be Lucasfilm’s turn for their design by committee approach to fail and rebuild itself? For investment purposes its unlikely as the ceiling has yet to be set on the series, so it makes sense for Disney to sink more than enough of its coffers as a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to make the best film possible. The best film being the most vastly appealing and profitable, which rings back to the director’s four-quadrant limiting intended tone. On the bright side a step down, [no way this will flop] would give the franchise some breathing room. After all why would you want to outshine the master? Maybe if I can be optimistic for one second, and hazard it’d be because they’re confident they can outdo with director Rian Johnson on Episode VIII similar to The Empire Strikes Back regard on the series.
But to truly the answer that last bit for Rogue One: ‘of course not!’ because the most limiting problem about it is serially and commercially, there is no place upward for it to go. They already stated they do not want to make a Rogue Two follow up because as successful as it might be it would fracture and create brand confusion. The follow up is just Star Wars. Hey it worked for The Force Awakens. Rogue One’s beginning is its end. I anticipate you will hear a lot of critics talk of the platter being finely served and nice to look at that’s a guarantee; the acting will be passable with many those wishing their talents as well as the crew’s were put to better use; being underserved by the material. This ship is in a unique position for such a large brand [extension]. A smaller vessel made for even greater for money but not to last is a challenging set. May the force be with it.
We have hope. Rebellious opinions are built on hope. It’s not New. Screenwriter, Chris Weitz [American Pie, About A Boy, Twilight, Cinderella] has had enchanting moments in his career. Michael Giacchino is a decent Oscar winning composer who may have gotten some last-minute inspiration. The cast still is game and Star Wars is bigger than ever. We have at least seen it will look pretty. To end, when I sat down and watched Gareth Edwards first film Monsters before Godzilla, before all of this. I was impressed. Here was a film made on limiting resources, much less under the radar, uncomparable in expectations. Speaking on that the level of quality, made by someone who was executing their own vision not following footprints left me in quiet awe at its end. This film is not that, but I expect to see if it’s a critical success the result of that same person’s work onscreen post December 16th. ‘Never tell me the odds’ of that are Starkiller base to Hosnian Prime.