Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Death Star

Is Rogue One in Trouble? A Breakdown of Why the Film is Headed for Reshoots.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.
AT-AT, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.

Felicity Jones, Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.

Darth Vader, Star Wars: Rogue One

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.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.

Ben Mendelsson, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.

Felicity Jones, Jyn Erso, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.

Mon Mothma, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.

Forrest Whitaker, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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.

11 thoughts on “Is Rogue One in Trouble? A Breakdown of Why the Film is Headed for Reshoots.”

  1. The Reasonable Critic’s Concerns:

    Disney had just one thing they had to accomplish with Rouge One, just one… single… thing. They had to show audiences that all the SW movies would not be the same, that there would be so much diversity that everyone would want to travel to the galaxy on a yearly basis. And they are screwing it up.

    I usually don’t get so upset about these things. Movies are only movies. There is enough horrible stuff going on in the real world to worry about. I try to cultivate serenity when it comes to the things that don’t really matter, and I try to distinguish those things from the things that DO matter. But I was really looking forward to many years of wonderful SW movies, and audiences are going to reject this franchise, and fast, when they see that all the films have the same tone and feel.

    This miscalculation has the potential to ruin everything. It won’t be apparent for awhile, but I think Disney has already killed SW. But Arrrrgh. Have they not seen ESB? Have they not seen ROTS? It doesn’t matter if the movie is dark and gritty, people will show up because it’s SW. Arrrrgh.

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  2. OK. After reading the take you posted, which is very sober indeed, here is what I think.

    I am very skeptical that 40% of the film is being reshot. If it is, I take back what I’ve said about how the film is going to be excellent, even if my fears about the tone, and the long-term implications, are spot-on. If Disney is reshooting close to half of the movie, it WILL be a disaster. There is no way around it. Name me one movie that has ever been improved by elaborate last-minute reshoots, mandated by people other than the film’s director, that somehow had to jive with the rest of what had been shot. Even if nothing like this had ever happened before, 40% of the movie? Wow. That would mean that the execs were REALLY freaked out, and that kind of reaction would be strange, assuming (as I am) that they approved the script before the film went into production.

    So I don’t think the execs were freaked out. I don’t think they’re trying to remake the movie with only five months to go. I DO think they’re taking a (most likely) excellent film that is dark for a SW movie, and making it less excellent and less dark, for no good reason. It will still be great, and have dark elements (who ever would have dreamt that Han would go out being tricked and murdered by his own son? I had assumed he was going to die in a celebratory blaze). But my dream of a gritty, WWII style movie set in the SW universe is dead, and I guarantee this film WILL hurt the franchise severely. Not now, but 3-5 years from now.

    I have to add that there is no reason to have this film match the tone of ANH, even if it does end ten minutes before the events of that movie. Plenty is different about this film already. John Williams is not doing the score, there will be no Jedi presence, and we don’t even know if an opening crawl will be there. The standalone films are not meant to be watched in giant a marathon with the proper episodes, threaded into the events of the SW galaxy chronologically.

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    1. Well I think the point of HitFlix’s report is that the 40% thing is wildly exaggerated and that this is not as big a deal as people are making it out to be. If it’s expensive, it’s probably F/X and I would say that points to the film’s third act as it dovetails into A New Hope. There is definitely going to be a crawl. It would be like Bastille Day with Wookies if there wasn’t. No, John Williams isn’t doing the score, but that’s something we’re unfortunately going to have to get used to as we move forward. There is no Jedi presence we know of but there is a Sith presence. My point is, with Marvel and Star Wars, Disney has rarely made any errors and none on the SW side since acquiring the property. I believe the report that only a few people saw the film and Kathleen Kennedy is following the Marvel model. She’s got the big picture in mind. Yes these are one-offs, but they’re canon and we don’t know if what’s in them will affect episodes down the line. I think the intent of these two first films was to make an episode that made you feel like A New Hope all over again, then go back and revisit that time and give it a prelude. To build the foundation of the new Star Wars universe on the cornerstone. To hear them say their standard of excellence is TFA or higher heartens me. I think honestly they’re just trying to get it right and I will be very surprised if we’re unhappy with the results. Futures spinoffs are going to have a lot more creative freedom, but just like with TFA, this has to be a home run. A full trailer is likely coming Sept-Oct. and then we can see a little more clearly. Alexandre Desplat, by the way, has taken over a John Williams franchise before, scoring the final two Potter films, which were by far the best scored after Williams left the series. I would like to see Michael Giacchino be the new John Williams if the maestro is done, because of the rather weak group of composers working today, I think he’s the best of the younger batch. With Williams and Morricone nearly done, Zimmer probably past his apex, and Goldsmith, Horner and Kamen gone, Hollywood has not had a great influx of new, young composers to step up. We still have Thomas Newman, but I think he, Desplat, Zimmer, and Giacchino are head and shoulders above the rest. That being said, I was so happy to see John Debney back in action with his fantastic Jungle Book score.He’s been sorely missed.

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      1. I hear you, and you did a lot to alleviate my fears today by posting McWeeney’s report. I’m just concerned about longevity. That’s all.

        Is Vader going to be in this a lot, do you know? Because if he is, there’s your carrot to dangle in front of everyone.

        Vader, plus a new classic-era SW story, would have been enough to suck people in, as long as the film was actually really good. TFA was so popular that I just don’t think most people would have been put off by a film that was more gritty than what they expected.

        I do hope that if Rogue One pulls punches in the interest of another safe outing, Episode 8 does not. Because after that, you have a standalone Han movie, which presumably will not be a risk-taker, and at that point Disney will have made four SW movies, all with the same feel, and that is the point where the excitement and the popularity will begin to flatline.

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      2. I know Vader is in it and his scenes have been described as “brutal”. And remember Chris Lord and Phil Miller are doing Han Solo so God alone knows how madcap that’s going to get, but that fits the character, so that’s good.I fully expect Episode VIII to be a wildly different film. Rian Johnson is not JJ Abrams. His writing and directing is character based and pretty gritty. He wrote and directed the famous “Fly” episode of Breaking Bad that essentially was two characters locked in the lab trying to kill a fly for 40 minutes and it’s character defining for both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. I wonder how much conflict there will be between Leia and Luke when they reunite. How much does she blame him? They have such wildly divergent views of Anakin. Luke had reconcilliation and got to see their father redeemed. Leia watched him blow up her entire world, was tortured by him personally, and the last time she saw him, he was freezing her future husband as a test. Maybe her hatred toward anything to do with Vader, pushed Ben to investigate his grandfather out of rebellion. Just a thought. With the Senate destroyed, I think Leia is going to be fighting political battles to integrate the Resistance and the Republic. I think Luke/Rey, Snoke/Ren dual training journeys will be a staple of the film. Then they’ll send Poe and Finn on some journey with BB-8 to capitalize on the chemistry that group had. Just guesses, but that’s half the fun.

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      3. When the sequel trilogy was announced, I actually had a theory about Leia, who I assumed was going to be a big politician, possibly even the leader of a new republic. My feeling was that Luke had tried to train her, but that they did not see eye to eye about Vader, and the training never took. And Leia’s hatred of her father was going to be so intense that it was going to lead her to be tempted by the dark side herself, which was going to threaten to turn her into a Palpatine-like figure.

        There will almost certainly be some Jedi training going on, to mirror ESB. I thought there was a huge void in the prequels: we should have seen Anakin training with Palps.

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      4. I was going to add that I had forgotten Forrest Whitaker was in the movie, and that his presence was a good sign, because I’m a huge fan. But then I remembered Battlefield Earth.

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      5. OK, so true story. John Travolta mentioned this himself, during an interview. He said that Quentin Tarantino was there for the premiere of Battlefield Earth, and that when it was over he walked up to Travolta and hugged him, and told him what a brilliant film it was, but that it was going to take “a long time for people to recognize it.” I thought that was pretty deft on QT’s part. Travolta seems to have bought it.

        Have you ever seen Nothing But Trouble, written, directed by, and starring Dan Ackroyd? Putting aside unprofessional stuff like The Room and Plan Nine From Outer Space, I’m pretty sure that Nothing But Trouble is the worst movie I have ever seen. It’s a measure of how much I love Ackroyd that I am still such a big fan of his.

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      6. Well, he’s a producer on it, isn’t he? Lying about your own film and saying it’s good when it’s not… that’s far better than bad-mouthing it, even if the film deserves it.

        Actually, I love the original Ghostbusters so much that Ackroyd is in my good graces forever, just for co-writing it.

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