Monday, June 6, 2016

A Reel Opinion: ROGUE ONE - Let's Not Panic

“I’m here to put you back on schedule!”
Darth Vader, in RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).
A long time ago…when this Blogger was working in the hectic yet fun universe of TV news, there was a makeshift sign taped above the control room wall which simply said, “Let’s not panic”. It was a wise posting by a wise man in an effort to keep the crews calm when things seemed to be more hectic and less fun during a live broadcast.
Such a creed should have been expressed across the internet last week, when stories (and a boat-load of rumors) started circulating that all was not well in the newly rejuvenated STAR WARS franchise. The stories and eventual panic in nerd-culture had to do with the first STAR WARS spin-off film, entitled ROGUE ONE. The film, which is being directed by Gareth Edwards, and is set to be released this coming December, had its initial screening in front of Disney executives…and as a result of that screening, was ordered into reshoots. The reports say that up to eight weeks of reshooting has been ordered, with the goal being to “lighten the mood” and to improve the tone; which has been said to be too far removed from what a STAR WARS movie should feel like.
Reshoots happen all the time in Hollywood, or even in independent filmmaking circles. They serve many purposes, including improving continuity, developing characters further, or too simply beef-up a scene or two. While filming more scenes is not uncommon, the reported eight weeks seems like a lot…and would theoretically put the unfinished film dangerously close to its December release date with not much time to polish.
Disney has a lot riding on ROGUE ONE. It is the first STAR WARS spinoff film (it doesn’t get an episode number, and in the timeline takes place right before the events of EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE), and it is the first STAR WARS movie to come after the mammoth success of THE FORCE AWAKENS. And since it has the high-profile name of STAR WARS attached to it, long-time fans across the internet had reason to panic…and often compared the situation to Darth Vader in RETURN OF THE JEDI, when the famed evil character arrived at an uncompleted Death Star to whip the construction crews into shape.
But let’s not panic, because there are reasons why this is a good thing. The principle players here are director Gareth Edwards and Disney, and if it’s a matter of choosing sides…then this Blogger is firmly in the Disney camp. Edwards is a competent director, but his only resume highlight is the 2014 GODZILLA, which was not met with a lot of enthusiasm from fans or critics (this Blogger found it to be an intolerable snore). In the other corner, we have Disney…whose past four films include THE FORCE AWAKENS, THE JUNGLE BOOK, ZOOTOPIA, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR; all great films which have been met with high reviews from fans and critics. The comparison of resumes is not even fair. Disney’s knack for giving people what they want to see (whether they know it or not) has been intact for over 75 years, and if they say they want a STAR WARS film that feels like a STAR WARS film, then that can’t be a bad thing (ask series creator George Lucas how STAR WARS can be received when it doesn’t feel very STAR WARS-y).  Disney and Edwards have their work cut out for them in the coming months, and in the meantime, fans and internet nuts should take some advice from that wise man who sought to keep his crew in a state of calm.
STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE is directed by Gareth Edwards from a screenplay by Chris Weitz (ABOUT A BOY). It stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, and Jonathan Aris. It is slated for release on December 16, 2016.

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