Friday, October 14, 2016

The Burden Of Being Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The Basics: With the second trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, lifelong Star Wars fans are given hope that one of the biggest technical issues in the franchise will be fixed . . . leaving fans wondering if the "fix" will be worse than the problem!

Prequels have a tough balance to weigh when one looks at films from an artistic sensibility instead of a business model. After all, as a business model, prequels and sequels make perfect sense; there is a calculation that can be done to figure out the potential for any blockbuster work to draw in money from the same sources a second time by examining sales reports for the initial release and then the permanent home release (digital, DVD, Blu-Ray, rentals, etc.). But from an artistic sense, prequels are near-impossible to get right.

That said, easily the most anticipated film of the final months of 2016 is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. With the final trailer to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropping, fans of the Star Wars franchise have almost every reason to be excited about the movie. Unfortunately, with the release of the final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Disney and Lucasfilm may well have given up too much information to keep the secrets they have desperately been clinging to and fans are already taking to the internet to explore every nook and cranny of the trailer.

It takes a lot for me to write about a film's trailer, as opposed to waiting for the film. In fact, I can only recall before writing about the problems posed to survivors of childhood crimes as an instant reaction to seeing the Rise Of The Guardians trailer (that article is here!) before now. But, the truth is, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had enough to get me to geek out and want to share in the joy of discussing the big concept alluded to in the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer. It is worth noting that I have nothing to do with the film, so my theories and excitement can easily be undone by the film going in an entirely different way than the trailer made it appear.

The basic plot of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been known for a few months now. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the story of how a team of Rebel spies managed to acquire the plans for the Death Star that would be passed from Princess Leia to R2-D2 in A New Hope (reviewed here!). The Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer fleshed out that basic plot by finally revealing some of the character relationships for the first time. Fans now know that the film's protagonist, Jyn Erso, is the daughter of the man who apparently designed the Death Star (which ought to be enough to get fans asking "Was he old enough to be alive and designing weapons so sophisticated in the time period of Revenge Of The Sith, where the Death Star plans were first shown?) and that Galen Erso is captured by the Empire and used to design the Death Star's weapons' systems against his will. But, in revealing the relationship between Jyn and Galen with a voiceover that helps characterize Galen as a reluctant villain working to save his daughter's life, the marketing team for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story may have let slip the answer to many fans' hopes.

Is it possible that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was entirely created (outside profit motive) to finally put to rest one of the agonizing technical problems with A New Hope?!

Those who love the Star Wars franchise have had to accept ribbing for decades with a pretty major plot hole in A New Hope. Virtually every major commentary and parody of A New Hope from movie scholars to Blue Harvest (reviewed here!) has made fun of the fact that the Death Star had a pretty glaring technical problem which allowed it to be destroyed with comparative ease. George Lucas needed a plot device to actually allow his heroes to succeed and within the past forty years some engineer had to point out that an engineer would make a heat vent based on efficiency without concern about the tactical implications of it - their priority would be on function for the problem being solved, not necessarily the drawback of it. If nothing else, the final trailer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story seems to imply that the film will finally give a concrete reason as to why the Death Star had such a glaring technical issue with it.

For those who loathe fan theories or people who like to look at the way things fit together and make sense of evidence presented to them, which has the potential to spoil the power of the joy of revelation in the first viewing, this is the last chance to turn away! Yeah, there are dozens (I don't have huge readership, so anyone from Lucasfilm who might read this and get pissed about the spoiler - hey, don't put the relevant data in the trailer if you don't want perceptive people to figure it out! - it's not like I could ruin the first viewing of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for millions of people!) of fans who might be affected by reading on, so blah blah potential spoiler alert.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might be the story of how the Death Star plans came to be in possession of the Rebellion, but it is potentially the story of exactly why the Death Star had a vent into which a proton torpedo or two could be shot, destabilizing the entire super weapon. If the final Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer is any indication, it was by design. The final Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer reveals that Galen Erso is working on the Death Star, apparently under Director Orson Krennic's direction, against his will. Galen loves his daughter Jyn Erso and appears to be mortgaging his freedom and technical skills for her life. But the opening line of the trailer declaring his love for his daughter and that all he does is for her makes viewers believe he has a conscience.

Amid all of the explosions, characters glaring and shots that remind fans just how awesome AT-ATs are, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story trailer leaves fans with the almost inescapable conclusion that Galen Erso purposely put in the technical fault which will allow the Death Star to be easily destroyed. A father, imprisoned by the forces of evil, wants to be able to prove to his daughter that he is not as far gone as it might appear on the surface, proves to her his heart is still good by revealing that as powerful as the Death Star may appear, it may be destroyed by materials the Rebellion already has.

And herein lies the problem with prequels and the concept of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. How does one make an immediate prequel to A New Hope without causing more technical issues than one initially had? The trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story shows Jyn and Captain Andor in Imperial uniforms infiltrating an Imperial facility . . . while this is a pleasant callback to A New Hope, it potentially creates a continuity problem for the same nitpicking fans who loathed the technical glitch in the Death Star. If Jyn's team infiltrates an Imperial facility (and, presumably, steals the Death Star plans or rescues a prisoner, as the trailer implies) and makes it out safely and Darth Vader at the outset of A New Hope knows the plans have been stolen, the burden on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is to create a scenario by which subsequent security measures that were implemented would still allow Luke Skywalker's team in A New Hope to, essentially, do the same thing. In other words, if Jyn Erso infiltrates an Imperial facility, steals plans and/or rescues a prisoner, and Darth Vader learns about it, the only way to make the Empire truly seem villainous and efficient is for countermeasures to be made as soon as Vader finds out what happens to prevent the same type of theft or extraction. If viewers are not given that, the natural question viewers will have is, "How the hell did the Empire survive so long when it is so inept?!" So, the writers of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, in playing the same basic technique for infiltration as seen in A New Hope are stuck with making it different enough from the infiltration already seen that it could be still believable that Luke Skywalker's team could do the same thing.

In making Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a vital tie-in to the original Star Wars Trilogy, the balance is a tough one to make credible. If the revelation that Galen placed a technical fault in the Death Star is not done by simple exposition - which it shouldn't be, not just because of the lack of dramatic intensity of it, because as die-hard geeks will note, in A New Hope, the plans have to be analyzed by the Rebels on Yavin to find the fault in the Death Star - it must happen in a way that is organic and ties in to the character elements that led to the creation of the technical fault.

Will Rogue One: A Star Wars Story go for utter camp? For sure, it could; "We looked at the plans of the Death Star and if you look closely, the lights for the Death Star spell out 'Jyn' in this sector . . . but there is a pixel missing from the 'y' and when we zoomed in on it, we discovered this exhaust port!" But the smart money is on there being a file name in the Death Star plans that has Jyn's name in it that highlights the exhaust port and what it connects to. After all, despite the lack of sophisticated graphics when A New Hope was created, the Death Star is an incredibly sophisticated piece of technology and finding the one weakness as fast as the exposition in A New Hope is hardly realistic - otherwise why wouldn't R2-D2, who had the plans stored in him for some time, have analyzed them and found the fault, so when he was recovered, simply revealed "Hey, look what I found?!" So, if Galen Erso created a fault in the Death Star that the Rebels could exploit, the burden on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is to have a mechanism by which the Rebels on Yavin would be able to find that fault and - to be satisfying drama - it ought to tie in directly to Jyn.

The Star Wars universe is a huge, rich, place and fans have a lot of reason to hope that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will flesh out that universe well, but if the implications of the trailer play out in their most logical way, the franchise runs the risk of creating something more ridiculous than the technical fault it seeks to justify! Hopefully, Disney and Lucasfilm has some die-hard fans on staff whose sole job it is to read scripts like that of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and fix the potential problems long before the film goes into production.

For other articles about movies and television, please check out:
The 10 Essential Star Trek Experiences
The 10 Best Movies Of 2014
The Top 10 Episodes Of Frasier

For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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