“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might be in trouble.”
That kind of headline demands your attention, right?
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to undergo reshoots.”
That just doesn’t have the same pizzazz to it. At this point, don’t all of the big budget movies undergo reshoots of some kind? It can be as simple as going back in to smooth out the edges of the story and add more jokes or as extensive as adding in entirely new characters and scenes. Sometimes these reshoots can be a sign of a genuinely troubled production (think Fantastic Four). Other times, not so much. We won’t know which camp Rogue One falls into until its mid-December release date.
Here’s the full story, if you missed it: Page Six reported that recent full cut screenings of Rogue One for both Disney executives and test audiences went so poorly the studio has ordered around a month of reshoots to take place this summer. The industry trades have since confirmed the reshoots, but learned Page Six was only partially correct. According to Deadline:
There were no test screenings and rather a re-shoot decision was made after Disney suits and producers watched the initial cut of the highly anticipated first spinoff. In fact, Disney never screened The Force Awakens before a test audience. According to sources, the first Rogue One cut was lacking the edge that Force Awakens had, and the story needs to jell. The film’s December 16 release date will not be affected.
A full month of reshoots is a bit excessive, although The Force Awakens actually went through three weeks of reshoots. So, there’s that. Still, this is not actually the first sign of trouble for Rogue One, as per BirthMoviesDeath:
A few months ago I told you that Chris McQuarrie had been brought in to do major rewrites that ‘saved’ the movie, but I guess that wasn’t enough. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been hearing a building buzz about the movie not working, a buzz I kind of wanted to just ignore. I don’t really have any specifics, and I can only hope that the whole thing is fixable.
And suddenly that cryptic teaser trailer seems less like a brilliant bit of mood-setting anti-advertising, and more like the sign of a film holding back out of necessity, not by design.
It’s also been implied that what has really tripped Disney up over Rogue One is its tone, which is exactly as doom and gloom as the teaser implies. To some, that’s Rogue One’s primary appeal. Finally, a Star Wars movie which will actually feel like a war movie! However, Disney might be getting cold feet and looking for ways to lighten the mood, and somehow add the new young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) to the story.
Using reshoots to lighten the mood? That’s what we’ve been hearing about Suicide Squad for months, although David Ayer has consistently disagreed, telling Collider, “I don’t think there’s any director that finishes a movie and says, ‘Wow that’s perfect, that’s what I really want it to be.’ Every movie I’ve ever made I wish I could go and grab some additional stuff and that’s exactly the chance I got this time. It’s like getting a new car but you get fancy rims and a new stereo.”
Even if WB really is unhappy with Suicide Squad and forcing Ayer to change things, what else would he say? Part of his job is to sell his movie. Those directors who go against that typically end up in director’s jail, more or less blacklisted in the industry and forever struggling for the next gig. For example, Fox straight up lied to us about the extent of its Fantastic Four reshoots, but everyone played along until its director Josh Trank crapped all over it on Twitter prior to opening weekend. When’s the last time you heard anything about him since then?
It’s rarely as bad as the situation was with Fantastic Four, but that does happen sometimes.
So, we tend to think of reshoots as being fiascos, last ditch efforts to save something that was broken before they ever started filming. It’s the last recourse of a director who got in over his or her head. It’s the result of a behind the scenes power play perpetrated by the increasingly nervous money people. Directors screwed over by studio/producer-mandated reshoots morph into folk heroes (Ridley Scott and Bladerunner, Richard Donner and Superman II). The industry trades gawk at the out of control budgets on massively reworked films like World War Z, and in recent years snarky pop culture sites go to town on all of the tell-tale signs of reshoots gone wrong, such as Kate Mara’s awful Fantastic Four reshoot wig.
But reshoots are a key component of Marvel Studios’ creative formula. For example, newly hired Black Panther director Ryan Coogler contributed some of Chadwick Boseman’s Civil War dialogue through reshoots, and it’s thought that portions of Spider-Man’s screen time came through reshots. Similarly, Loki’s Thor: The Dark World screen time was upped considerably, often at Tom Hiddleston’s own suggestion (such as adding the early scene of a shackled Loki standing before Odin). The Avengers’ post-credits shawarma scene was added after the premiere.
The trick is to add these new elements so seamlessly that we never notice. The truly troubled movies cannot be saved, and if the changes made through reshoots are overly extensive it will be nearly impossible for us to not notice all of the inevitable awkward transitions.
Hollywood blockbusters cost so much to make and market worldwide the studios are increasingly prone to tinkering. So, Star Trek Beyond added a new cast member during reshoots in March. Suicide Squad is apparently adding more laughs and action. Rogue One is…doing something through reshoots. We’re aware of this because of the internet. Hopefully we’ll forget all about it once we see the movies.
Star Trek Beyond is due out 7/22. Suicide Squad is due 8/5. Rogue One is due 12/16.