Rogue One Shows Us a Different Side of the Star Wars Universe

Posted April 7, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Movies

My initial reaction to the Rogue One trailer (the watching of which was the first thing I did this morning) was very different to my reaction to the first Force Awakens trailer. I mean, the general sentiment is still the same – Rogue One looks excellent, just as Force Awakens did. But with the first Force Awakens trailer, I felt like I was truly returning the Star Wars universe for the first time in years. Despite spending the past decade or so immersing myself in the EU, none of it even comes close to rivaling the tone of the original trilogy – something that Force Awakens did immediately. It felt like Star Wars in a way that nothing but the original trilogy ever did.

Immediately, Rogue One is very different. Of course, the music (you’ve got to love that mix of the Imperial March and the Force Theme at the end of the trailer) and general aesthetic of the universe are more than present in this trailer. The key difference, however, is the tone. Star Wars is almost a genre of its own at this point – you can classify it as science-fiction, or a space opera, or space fantasy, but ultimately, the franchise is a different beast. It bears similarities to other genres, and takes inspiration from them, but tonally, it’s something completely different.

That is most certainly not a moon.

Rogue One doesn’t have that. That’s not a knock against the trailer – like I said, I think it looks awesome. But this film is about a completely separate side of the universe, one we haven’t really seen in the films. Rogue One isn’t about powerful force users, or massive, operatic stories. No, this is a story on a much smaller scale than anything we’ve seen in the six live action Star Wars films. However, it has been a key part of the expanded universe for a long time, and has manifested itself in the new EU with novels like Twilight Company and, of course, Lost Stars.

100% down for some new characters.

To be entirely honest, this is exactly what I want from these anthology films. While it’s awesome to have a numbered Star Wars movie every year to hit me with waves of nostalgia, the universe is vast, and with the dissolution of the old EU, a largely open playground to tell stories in. The rules of the universe are already in place, and the foundations are all there as well. There’s a lot of room for experimentation and the telling of new, interesting stories. The best parts of the old EU were those that used the existing framework as a backdrop to tell stories that felt new, and the worst parts were those that felt like they were retreading ground that had already been covered in the films.

Considering the success of The Force Awakens, both critically and financially, Rogue One is the perfect opportunity to expose the general public to a completely different side of the universe. Because – and I swear, this isn’t me trying to come off as a pretentious Star Wars fan – most Star Wars fans haven’t read every scrap of EU content that’s out there. And they don’t need to (seriously, there are some things you should just skip – looking at you, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye), but it is important that they realize the universe is actually super multi-faceted, and conducive to a variety of different types of stories.

Is that… Thrawn? Haha no stop it wishful thinking.

Changing it up a little for the anthology movies also helps the franchise remain relevant. Look, even though I’m probably more excited than most by the fact that we’re getting a new Star Wars movie every year for the foreseeable future, the danger of it eventually becoming stale as a franchise seemed very real. The ability to iterate within their own universe means that they can continue to make movies, and avoid falling into the trap of repetition.

Look, I don’t think that Rogue One is going to take any super massive risks or anything. At the end of the day, it is a Star Wars movie. That being said, I can’t help but appreciate the work being done at Lucasfilm to diverge at least a little bit from the traditional Star Wars formula. And who knows, if it pays off, maybe we’ll get super weird, experimental Star Wars films made on an ultra low budget? I doubt that will ever happen, but if this movie is a success (and it’s hard to imagine it not being one), it signals to Lucasfilm that it’s Ok to play around with the universe a little bit more.

About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.