Spoiler Warning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Obvious question: Now that the force has been awakened, why is the next Star Wars movie – Rogue One, due out December 16 – going to be a prequel?
Obvious answer: Because Disney paid over $4 billion to pry LucasFilms out of George Lucas’ hands, and now they’re going to put out a new Star Wars movie every year until they cease being profitable. The odd-numbered years will be reserved for installments in the new saga started in The Force Awakens, and the even-numbered years will be devoted to prequels. Rogue One will be about the group of rebels (led by Felicity Jones) who stole the plans for the first Death Star from the Empire. So, are you still reeling over Force Awakens‘ cliffhanger of an ending? Well, you’ll have to wait two more years to see what happens next, but in the meantime maybe you’d like to hear the story of that one time something totally different happened over 30 years ago with characters we’ve never met before.
That seems kind of odd, right?
Then again, this is a franchise which seriously told a six-part story by releasing parts 4-6 first and then waited more than 15 years to fill us in on what happened in the first three parts.
This is also a franchise which is currently two seasons into an animated series (Rebels) which takes place in-between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. If it seems odd that the kids who loved Force Awakens will now have to watch a bunch of new characters in Rogue One remember that a lot of them probably came to Force Awakens hoping to see Rebels characters like Ezra, Kanan and Chopper. In fact, in terms of the Star Wars timeline the Rebels characters are far closer to Rogue One than Force Awakens.
Get used to the new, weird normal of franchise universe building. 2018 will deliver a Han Solo prequel even though we just watched the present day version of him die in Force Awakens. Rumors persist that Gal Gadot’s solo Wonder Woman will take place almost entirely before Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice despite coming out a year after it. Don’t even try to make sense of the X-Men movie timeline at this point since the soon-to-be released Deadpool will technically be a sequel to First Class, Days of Future Past AND the not so soon-to-be released Apocalypse since those all take place in the past. Spoiler alert: Whatever goes down in Apocalypse obviously doesn’t end the world because Deadpool is around decades later having R-rated adventures. We’ll know that already because Deadpool comes out 4 months before Apocalypse.
In fact, on some level Disney is attempting with Star Wars what 20th Century Fox tried and failed to do with X-Men, lest we forget that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be the start of a run of spin-off prequels (e.g., Origins: Magneto, Origins: First Class). However, in that case they were just going to make prequels, not prequels at the same time as proper X-Men sequels starring the Bryan Singer/Brett Ratner cast.
You could argue Disney is actually attempting to fit Star Wars into a Marvel Studios-esque cinematic universe, but those movies all follow a roughly forward-moving timeline, except for Captain America: The First Avenger. Plus, they don’t fall under one franchise umbrella like a “Star Wars” or “X-Men.” Instead, they all have their own individual adventures and get their own sequels, only occasionally gathering together in an Avengers movie as Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Star Wars is instead going back to the past right after Force Awakens took us into the future. It doesn’t seem to matter since Rogue One was recently voted by Fandango users as the most anticipated film of 2016. How many of the survey respondents, I wonder, realize that Rogue One is a prequel and not a Force Awakens continuation?
Here’s the thing, though: Along with LucasFilms head Kathleen Kennedy, there is a braintrust behind all of this, consisting of uber-producer/writer Simon Kinberg, writers Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) and screenwriting legend Lawrence Kasdan. As Kinberg (who also executive produces Rebels) told EW, the braintrust spent a week at Skywalker Ranch working on the structure for the next trilogy and standalone spin-offs, “Like a TV writers room, we spent a week with a whiteboard and some pens and were in a conference room all day talking about [movies] VII, VIII, and IX. But it’s a whiteboard covered in our notes. We had a sense of what we each wanted to write. It was the most magical time because we were writing Star Wars movies.”
Surely they dreamed up a way to connect Rogue One to Force Awakens. What if we somehow learn more about Supreme Leader Snoke through Rogue One? What if he was actually working with the Rebels against Palpatine and helping them steal the Death Star plans, neither side realizing who they were really dealing with (assuming Snoke actually is Darth Plagueis, Palpatine’s old master)? Even if Snoke isn’t Darth Plagueis, Rogue One could still secretly gives us more hints about him, perhaps revealing him to be someone deeply involved in the Empire ss far back as A New Hope. There could also be any number of other easter eggs, e.g., hints at the future creation of The First Order, a cameo from the long-lived Maz, appearances from the Star Wars Rebels characters, etc. Maybe Felicity Jones’ character will turn out to be Rey’s mom!
This movie can’t really just be about that one time a bunch of people, some of whom probably died, stole the plans from the Empire which allowed Luke to blow up the Death Star in New Hope, can it? If it is, though, could that still make for a perfectly fine Star Wars movie, or a disappointing momentum-breaker after The Force Awakens? Or both?
What do you think?
Rogue One, directed by Godzilla‘s Gareth Edwards and starring Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelson, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk and Ben Mendelsohn, comes out December 16, 2016.
UPDATED 1/8/16 – Rogue One’s official title is actually Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I don’t know if that’s new or if it’s always been like that and I never noticed. Either way, anytime I referred to it as Star Wars: Rogue One in the above article, well, I was wrong.