We’re only about two months away from the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and by now it’s not hard to be more excited about the first Star Wars spinoff than what JJ Abrams gave us in The Force Awakens. Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered box office records, but it’s not hard to see that the movie really felt like it was made by a focus group that was tasked with winning over jaded “Prequel hating” fans who were thirsty for a heavy handed bit of nostalgia. Instead of taking risks and moving Star Wars forward with unique new ships, planets, and story; The Force Awakens wallowed in nostalgia for the Original Trilogy. Rogue One is guilty of harnessing nostalgia itself, but the way the movie is doing it is quite different.
It’s Taking Risks
There’s a very good chance the main cast of Rogue One won’t make it out of the adventure alive. Even if a couple survive, that’s a pretty bold risk to take with a Star Wars movie but it fits the story being told here. It’s also a Star Wars movie without lightsabers, no Jedi, and no major recognizable characters. Aside from being constrained by what’s said in A New Hope’s opening crawl and a couple of lines in that movie, it’s a pretty open slate for what can happen in Rogue One.
The Force Awakens gave us a new shuttle for Kylo (which was just an evolution of the Imperial Shuttle), Leia’s ship, and that’s about it. Instead of showing new starfighters for the Resistance and First Order, we just got updated X-Wings and TIE Fighters. There were lots of starfighter designs done for the movie, but instead they decided to go with nostalgia. Rogue One gives us a new U-Wing for the Rebellion and the TIE-Striker atmospheric fighter for the Empire. That’s the sort of thing that made each movie in the Original Trilogy fun for kids who got toys, every movie would introduce cool new ships.
Interesting New Planets
Look at the planets in The Force Awakens: desert, forest, snow. It’s like they collapsed the Original Trilogy settings into one movie. Before we knew it was Jakku, everyone assumed it was Tatooine! Again, it was purposely trying to pull in elements from A New Hope. JJ Abrams admits it. Rogue One shows us a plateau-planet that was a Jedi pilgrimage site, a planet that looks like Iceland, and a tropical Bahamas-style world. Again, they’re going pretty different here and it’s exciting to see.
We Get a Space Battle!
Ask any Star Wars fan and one of the big things The Force Awakens was missing was a space battle. We kind of saw stuff in the high-atmosphere of Starkiller base, but that was basically the Death Star take 3. Rogue One has space combat. In the trailer we see X-Wings taking out some kind of platform, which could possibly be part of the defenses surrounding Scariff.
It’s a Story Star Wars Fans Want to See
Think of all of the opening crawls of Star Wars. We get to see what Revenge of the Sith describes via The Clone Wars, and it would be cool to see that ten-years with Obi-Wan and Anakin between Phantom and Clones. But in the Original Trilogy, the coolest opening crawl was always A New Hope:
“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.
During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”
No wonder John Knoll pitched that as a Star Wars spinoff. That’s a Star Wars movie right there. We have the first Rebel victory against the Empire and then the Rogue One team stealing the Death Star plans. That’s a lot more exciting than trying to re-tell the story of A New Hope but with different characters.