Star Wars, like all objects of non-rational devotion (see also comic books, television franchises, politics and religion), will always elicit strong opinions. In the absence of evidence all assertions are equally (in)valid and only the loudness and fervor of either side distinguishes one from the other.
Fully aware that there is not enough material available to make an informed judgement I plan to come down on both sides. Rogue One will be awesome and Rogue One will also be terrible. I buy both and believe both and here’s why:
Star Wars, when it has worked, has told stories in a straight line built from inevitabilities from set up to pay off. Of course the young man or woman would set off on a journey. Of course he/she would grow through trial and find mentors and friends. Of course the scoundrel would get the girl. These are universal certainties built into the DNA of western storytelling and distilled to crystalline certainty by the narrative simplicity of the movies. And the environments, battle scenes and grandly imagined weapons of Star Wars were just scenery along that predetermined path.
Rogue One on the other hand is starting in the middle of a known story with unknown characters, it’s the side mission, stepping out into the sandbox, out of the current of the larger story’s natural momentum. It is a piece of the scenery which we are now taking time to investigate. Like the well known experience of the sandbox video game you can easily loose yourself in the larger world. The narrative evaporates and you spend hours wandering, accomplishing nothing until you just get exhausted and quit.
So Rogue One will be terrible because it and its successors will continue to expand out until all possibility of interest is exhausted and we all just give up.
But Rogue One will be awesome because who among us only plays the story mission? We want the larger extremities, we want to be beaten back by the expanse and to feel enveloped.
The Star Wars universe is about to get a whole lot bigger…and a whole lot smaller.
A child playing with his action figures in 1983-1999 looked at his Darth Vader figure and wrote Vader’s whole life stretching back to the beginning and it was exciting. Now children more likely conform it to the canonical story of the boy Anakin. Similarly the Star Wars universe, the things which occur out in the, “…galaxy far, far away,” concurrent with the stories we know are about to be named and told and frozen into canon.
This is great news and it is terrible news. We get more but we get to create less of our own.
As our narrative universes expand and require greater quantities of telling the space and opportunity we have to create other stories shrinks. There are limited resources for large scale telling. One Star Wars movie every year, two at least from each major comic book company, plus television shows, video games, and print media makes for an incredible abundance but also a dispiriting lack of invention outside those closed narrative universes.
Rogue One is the opening of one frontier but the preemptive closing of countless others. The Star Wars universe grows but our own seems to shrink because of it.
I am excited for it and I wish it weren’t happening.
Rogue One will be amazing.
Rogue One will be terrible.
(Like this post? Hate this post? Read my Movie Think blog and you’ll likely find more of the same)
“So whatever you do don’t be bored. This is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive.” -Waking Life