The biggest Star Wars news over the last week was that Rogue One: A Star Was Story was headed for three weeks of extremely expensive re-shoots over the summer. For a film coming out in December, that’s eyebrow-raising. Reports have been flying all over the Web about why. Some have claimed that nearly half the film is being scrapped. The hysteria is increasing among the fanbase, and my good friend, The Reasonable Critic (whose thoughts I will put in the comments below), is among those seriously concerned. I thought that it was time to address my take from what I’ve gleaned.
I am going to share, what I feel, is the most well informed take on the reshoots after this paragraph, but here’s what I think in a nutshell: Don’t Panic. Disney’s bar for this film in terms of quality is that it meets or exceeds that set by The Force Awakens, which most fans have in their top 3 of films in the franchise. Likewise, this is the first non-episodic film ever done for Star Wars. If it is not sold to fans, then the danger is that Disney is going to have fans viewing them as optional compared to the episodes. Rogue One will take us from three months before A New Hope to 10 minutes before Leia stuffs the plans for the Death Star into R2-D2 in the original film. The biggest concern, it seems to me, is that there be a seamless tonality between Rogue One and A New Hope because they’re really linking the films together. This doesn’t mean every episode is going to have A New Hope‘s tone, but given how this is made to flow right into the original film, a jarring change in tonality would be out of character with the film’s atmosphere. And, if you don’t think A New Hope is dark, perhaps you’re forgetting torched Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen, Vader blowing up an inhabited planet and torturing his own daughter, and the death of Obi-Wan.
Hitfix.com is a great site, and one of the sites that I consider extremely reliable when I write this one. Drew McWeeney from that site offered this report earlier in the week, and I think it is the best-informed, most reasonable take I’ve read yet:
When the first rumors about the reshoots on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story broke, I reached out to people close to the film, and I got back a general “It’s not a giant deal.” I didn’t get much else because the people I know who are close to the film, even the ones I’ve known for a long time, are very careful. Star Wars inspires a certain degree of protectiveness. Many of the people working on the film at all levels are life-long fans of the franchise, and the last thing they want to do is burn a bridge or do something that’s going to hurt the series.
While I was skeptical of the most panicked reports (this one on Making Star Wars struck me as particularly off-base and hyperbolic, no matter what sort of track record Jason Ward has), something was apparently happening. Anthony Breznican, who spent a good deal of time on the set of The Force Awakens and who has been wired deeply into the Star Wars camp overall, has done his own digging, and what he’s turned up is the best-reported and most clear-eyed report yet on what is actually happening.
What’s most striking about the difference between Breznican’s reporting and that Making Star Wars report, largely regurgitated without any additional legwork by numerous outlets, is how there are major factual disagreements. It’s not like it’s a matter of degrees. One outlet has Christopher McQuarrie stepping up to “partner” with Gareth Edwards to finish the film, while the other says Tony Gilroy is tapping in to do some second unit work. One outlet says they’re scrapping almost half the movie. The other says it’s mainly dialogue stuff. One says major. One says minor. One paints a picture of frantic scrambling to fix something broken. The other shows a process that has been polished on other films working to allow this team exactly what they wanted, a chance to fine-tune their movie. Both outlets can’t be right, and on a story like this, the difference in that reportage is the difference in hurting a film and simply reporting on what’s going on. It may not be malicious, but it can be irresponsible.
I’ve been doing this long enough that I know that anything I say will get amplified and exaggerated as it gets passed around, and even so, I am surprised sometimes by the gale force hurricane winds generated by fairly benign observations or commentary. Part of that comes from fans who expect that everything the love arrived in perfect condition instantly without any difficulty or effort from the filmmakers or artists involved. That’s just ridiculous. Films are hard to get right, and they’re doubly hard to get right when you’re working under a microscope. If anything, I’ve grown more cautious over the years to make sure I’m not overstating problems that aren’t there, or accidentally damaging a film simply by pulling back the wrong curtain. If I discuss troubles, and if I’m vague, it’s because that is an accurate way of portraying a production, and because being more specific would be damaging in some way.
Fandom is quick to go crazy about things, and often, the things they’re upset about are simply misreported. If every single step of the production of The Force Awakens had been reported in real time, fandom would have lost their minds repeatedly. There are some key scenes in the relationship between Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) which were shot early in the production schedule, and JJ Abrams felt as he watched the film come together that he got that sequence wrong. He had additional photography already built into his schedule, and when he went back, he shot those scenes again with a very different dynamic. The result is what many people love most about the film, that great dawning friendship that defines their interplay. BB-8 was another difficult thing for Abrams, and he kept working on the “voice” of that character right up until November. If Disney had melted down at every twist and turn, Abrams would never have delivered the movie that people ended up loving.
Kathleen Kennedy has produced more classic blockbusters than arguably anyone else alive, and when we talk about Lucasfilm, let’s not forget that we’re talking about a structure that has Kathleen Kennedy right there at the top. She’s got the big picture in mind with Star Wars at every given moment, and if I trust anyone to make sure that the film is finished properly, I trust her. By all accounts, she and Lucasfilm are supporting Gareth Edwards completely as they finish the film, and they’re close to having the film they set out to make in the first place.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stars Felicity Jones , Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, and Forest Whitaker. The first Star Wars spin-off will open December 16, 2016.