Last night I finally had a chance to catch Gareth Edwards' Rogue One. I walked into the film with a bounce in my step, emboldedned by the overwhelmingly positive reviews and excited to see the first-ever standalone Star Wars movie. I'd had my reservations about the film, but the word on the street was pretty damn encouraging.
When the movie wrapped 133 minutes later, my reaction was "Hey, that was pretty good". By the time I got to my car, Rogue One's status had been slightly downgraded to "just okay". And by the time I got home, some half an hour later, things had taken a turn for "I don't think I liked that very much."
For me, Rogue One quickly turned out to be one of those movies that falls apart the more you think about it. Unearned character beats, a wildly uneven first half, the questionable inclusion of fan-favorite characters, and a great-looking but narratively-tedious final act kept me from loving this movie as much as the rest of you. But my chief complaint, the one I kept coming back to again and again, was this: if we're gonna be making standalone Star Wars movies (and we should!), I think I'd prefer it if they were actually standalone Star Wars movies.
In short, I want a Star Wars movie willing to do its own thing, something completely separated from the neverending Skywalker saga. Because it would seem so easy to accomplish - just combine the genre of your choice with the Star Wars aesthetic - I have to assume this isn't happening for financial reasons, that the creative leadership guiding the franchise fears audiences won't show up for a film that jettisons the characters, locations and in-jokey references we all know so well.
I'll concede that a truly standalone Star Wars movie probably stands to earn less money than another chapter in the Skywalker saga. Fair enough. People respond to what they know, and are often confused and/or turned-off by new ideas, particularly as they pertain to iconic film franchises. From a business standpoint, I get it.
But speaking from the standpoint of a satisfied audience member, I'm bored. We have this gigantic sandbox to play in, and we keep coming back to the same damn corner over and over again. Insisting on filling in every piece of Star Wars backstory is not only dramatically inert (please, god, no more prequels), it's also starting to dilute the power of some truly iconic characters. They're still printing money with these things, yes, but mark my words: even hardcore Star Wars superfans will get bored with this stuff sooner or later.
With all of that in mind, I'm proposing a thought experiment: if you were handed the keys to the Star Wars kingdom, and the only rule was that you couldn't use previously-established characters (I'm tempted to ban previously-established locations, but I'll yield on that front for the time being), what would you do? What genre would you pair with the Star Wars aesthetic? Go as big and weird as you like. I pitched this same question on Twitter last night and received a number of interesting responses, and I bet the Birth.Movies.Death. readership's got some killer ideas, as well.
Note: to be clear, this is not about ragging on Rogue One. I'm well aware that I'm in the minority on this, and have no interest in trying to talk anyone out of their love for Edwards' film; if you dug it, more power to you. Rather, this is about imagining what could be done with this powerhouse franchise going forward - just for the fun of it! - and I hope we can stay focused on that side of things. Have at it in the space below.