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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Okay. I’m excited. Yes, right now we’ve only had a couple trailers that show us what ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY has to offer, but if possible, I think I’m more thrilled to see this film than I was to see last year’s STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

I know, that’s a tall order. THE FORCE AWAKENS was exactly the film many fans wanted from the STAR WARS franchise. It brought the saga back to its character-driven roots, putting them as a priority over world-building, but as many others have said before, it was a well-made retread of A NEW HOPE. That’s not a slight against that film by any means. It’s exactly what the franchise needed. But while THE FORCE AWAKENS was exactly what was needed to rejuvenate the series, ROGUE ONE may be what it needs to catapult it to new heights.

Regardless of the rumored reshoots that have allegedly amounted to almost half of the film, I remain optimistic about the film’s prospects.

Here are five reasons to be excited for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY.


OUR BAND OF MISFITS

I like me a good team-up. It’s probably one of the reasons I was so excited for SUICIDE SQUAD. There’s something great about seeing a varied collection of characters come together for a common cause, and it looks like this is exactly what we’re getting in ROGUE ONE.

Rather than focus on your standard high-level Rebels, this film looks to center around a group of ragtag heroes from across the galaxy — and you know what? I almost buy that they’re from across the galaxy. I love STAR WARS, but the human characters have usually been distinctly white. Don’t get me wrong. That’s fine, but if I’m to believe that this is truly an expansive universe, I like to see a variety of races being utilized. ROGUE ONE seems to fit that bill quite nicely, as the cast hails from all over: Britain, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, America — and it helps to give the film a bit of added flavor that has been lacking in the franchise.

What’s more, is the feel of getting this group together. I’ve been pretty vocal in the past about Lucasfilm putting together a SEVEN SAMURAI remake with Jedi, and while it’s still up in the air as to whether or not it will happen, I’m definitely getting a SEVEN SAMURAI vibe here, and that gets me all kinds of excited.


STAR “WARS” IN THEIR TRUEST FORM

STAR WARS has never under-delivered on the “wars” aspect of STAR WARS. However, the tone of the films have always been that of high fantasy adventure set in a galaxy far, far away. That’s all well and good, but that’s seven films we’ve had that. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years it’s that even the best of franchises can get bogged down under the “samey-ness.”

Marvel learned that if they make each of their films strictly “superhero” films, they’d be contributing to the downfall of the genre. In order to keep things exciting for viewers, they’d have to make each of their franchises unique and distinct. STAR WARS is a similar beast, and if Lucasfilm wants to ensure that audiences don’t grow tired of it, then they’d do well to make these anthology films as different as possible. The tone they have established for the main saga is great, but with these spinoff flicks, they can really take advantage and explore new places and styles that would normally be off-limits.

Since the beginning, ROGUE ONE has been advertised as something of a war film. The filmmakers even went so far as to bring in consultants from such movies as ZERO DARK THIRTY and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN to help in making it as real as could be — in the context of this universe. That effort comes across in the trailer, and I hope it isn’t downplayed by the time we see the film in favor of a similar tone to THE FORCE AWAKENS.

All in all, I love STAR WARS, but am excited to see it move in a bold, new direction — at least with these movies.


BROAD SCOPE AND NARROW FOCUS

ROGUE ONE takes place before the events of A NEW HOPE, and as such, those of us familiar with this universe already have a good idea of where the plot stands in context to the rest of what we’ve seen so far. By virtue of that, ROGUE ONE’s scope has already opened up quite a bit. They don’t have to waste a lot of time and effort to remind the audience of the stakes and scope of this world.

This will allow them to focus on where it sounds: the characters. Yes, their mission to take on the Empire is important, but as THE FORCE AWAKENS proved, it’s far more intriguing to focus on the characters than it is to focus on the world. Based on the trailers we’ve seen so far, Lucasfilm has managed to make these characters the true focus of the flick — beyond its stellar setting.

So long as the filmmakers are able to keep the stakes personal and primal, audiences will be drawn to whatever happens. The trailers seem to indicate this is the case, and I can only expect the flick will deliver that front.


A JOURNEY COMPLETED

When we think of STAR WARS, we think of a long, epic, multi-episode adventure. That’s what every iteration of the franchise has been. From its films, to its books and video games, there has rarely been an occasion for there to be a one-and-done story, especially on the movie front. ROGUE ONE has a big advantage over any other STAR WARS film that came before: it’s a standalone film.

Yes, while this does mean we’ll only be getting a short amount of time to spend with these characters, they’ll be able to give them complete arcs in a single movie. As movie franchises become increasingly like TV shows, filmmakers have been forced to give their characters smaller (or no) character arcs over the course of several films. It makes for more nuanced and believable storytelling, but along the way, there has been something lost: that rewarding finality when we compare the character at the beginning of the film to the character at the end of the film.

With ROGUE ONE (barring any unexpected sequels), we’ll be able to see that rewarding arc in full, and from what we’ve seen in the trailer, I can already see that arc in full effect. At the beginning, we see this rebellious Jyn Erso. I may be jumping to conclusions, but she comes across as crass, standoffish, and untrusting. By the trailer’s end, we see her and her team unite together fro a common cause. Against all odds, this standoffish character has learned to grow close to others.

I only hope that when the movie is completed that it’ll be a journey I buy. As much as I enjoyed SUICIDE SQUAD, I didn’t buy their journey as much as the flick wanted me to. Hopefully under the guidance of Lucasfilm, director Gareth Edwards was able to make it work.


DARTH VADER

Yup. It’s shallow, but I don’t care.

Darth Vader is synonymous with STAR WARS, and while this move to include the character in ROGUE ONE could be viewed as lazy, I see it as an opportunity.

In the prequel trilogy, we only got to see the fall of Anakin Skywalker and the beginnings of Vader. In the original trilogy, we only got to see Vader after he had become former shell of himself. 

In ROGUE ONE, we’ll be seeing Darth Vader as close to his prime as we ever have. Sure, he’s only a few months (or maybe less) away from how we see him in A NEW HOPE, but at least in this film, he won’t be restricted by any connections with the leads. To him, these Rebels will be nothing but cannon fodder that need to be dealt with.

Here’s hoping we get Vader unleashed in ROGUE ONE.


Do you agree with our reasons? What are the other aspects of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY that you’re looking forward to the most? Or are you more cynical about this whole thing?

Let us know your thoughts down below!

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY hits theaters on December 16, 2016.

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Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.