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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Disclaimer: This piece has massive spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

If you’ve been following either my writing on this site or my comments on Los Fanboys Podcast, you’ll know that I’ve been pretty down on the idea of Star Wars spinoffs. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t want to see these spinoffs — on the contrary, I very much do. However, I’ve always been of the opinion that going forward with films like Rogue One and the Han Solo spinoff were huge missed opportunities.

I love the Star Wars universe as much as any fan, but I’m also not the type of person who needs to see every mentioned aspect of the world actually play out. I didn’t care about how the Rebels stole the Death Star plans. I don’t need to see Han and Lando become friends. I don’t need to see Lando lose the Falcon to Han. These films don’t need to connect to the main saga film, and in fact, it only holds them back. By locking themselves to these previous movies, they’re only limiting their potential to tap into this massive universe.

But after seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I may have had a change of heart. Don’t get me wrong. I still very much want to see this universe expand in huge, unexpected ways, but it’s becoming increasingly clear what my real fear was with these spinoffs. It isn’t that I didn’t want to see these stories play out, but rather I feared the filmmakers would do a poor job. Well, I’m happy to say that, despite my biggest fears, this isn’t a problem that Rogue One succumbs to.

To me, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story managed to scratch a lot of serious fanboy itches. They gave us another peek into the Star Wars universe just prior to the trilogy (we even got to see the triumphant return of blue milk), they gave us a badass Darth Vader scene, and they retconned one of the most lovingly-criticized plot points regarding the Death Star’s weakness. But, to be honest, these were things that I really didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to see callback after callback to Star Wars: A New Hope. I didn’t want to see Red Leader and Gold Leader randomly check in during the climactic battle of Rogue One. I didn’t want to see Princess Leia or Grand Moff Tarkin in all their CG glory (are you noticing a trend here?).

And, in fact, I would have dreaded all of this while watching the film…if Rogue One didn’t manage to stand up on its own. Sure, the film isn’t perfect. Not every character gets as much development as I’d like, and by the third act of the film, we see them all get picked off one by one, until there are none. Given the sheer number of the these characters and the limited time we spend with them, there was no way they could all get their moment to shine. Apart from this flaw, however, there was a whole lot to love.

Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens before it, there was a real weight to this world that had been missing from George Lucas’ prequels, and more than any other Star Wars film before it, Rogue One seemed to content to actually build on the nuts and bolts on the world. Again, like The Force Awakens, the production design here is off-the-charts amazing, and only added to the tangibility of this world. 

In addition to all this, we got to see a unique shade of gray within this world that the films generally steer clear of. Here, we actually get to see blood spent in this Rebellion, the doubt among its participants, and horrible lives they had to live under the Empire. As such, watching the film felt like it retroactively enriched everything that had come before it. It gave the original trilogy added weight, and it gave this entire world an extra layer of credibility. 

Despite my better instincts, as I found myself more and more immersed in the plot of Rogue One, I also found myself craving those connections I had previously dreaded. All of a sudden, I wanted to see those badass Vader scenes. I wanted to see some of the players from the original trilogy. I wanted to see how this group of Rebels managed to steal the plans to the Death Star, against all odds.

And this led me to rethink my philosophy on these spinoff films. It’s always been my thought that any plot any fan thinks up in his or her head is almost guaranteed to be much greater than whatever the filmmakers are able to throw up on the big screen. In retrospect, this all feels a bit shortsighted, and ironically, limiting to what these films could achieve. Who’s to say what these filmmakers can achieve with a little bit of elbow grease? Should the filmmakers really be limiting the potential for greatness simply for fear of not nailing it one hundred percent? What sorts of classic stories have we missed out on because of that mentality?

So, do I want to see a Han Solo film? No, not really. That one’s still a bit to close to beloved territory for me to accept willingly. But within this concept lies a real potential to enrich this world we love so much. This sounds absurdly obvious, but it is worth saying: Lucasfilm retreading territory in these Star Wars films is only really a bad idea when it’s done badly, and so long as they handle it with the same deft in grace as they did with Rogue One, perhaps people like me should be a bit more openminded about them limiting their own universe.

What did you think about Rogue One? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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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.