For a lot of Star Wars fans, it’s still sinking in that, from now on (for the foreseeable future anyway), there will be a new Star Wars movie in theaters at least once per year.
That means in just a short while, the amount of canonical Star Wars content created by Disney without the guidance and supervision of George Lucas will outnumber the movies and TV series with which he was directly involved.
Among other things, last December’s “The Force Awakens” proved there is definitely an appetite for that. The film pulled in more than $2 billion worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, making it the third highest-grossing movie of all time.
Next up on the docket is the Gareth Edwards-directed “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” set roughly a year before the events of 1977’s “A New Hope.”
Even from just its title, it’s evident that “Rogue One” is going to be more than just another installment in the Star Wars universe. Edwards’ prequel will set a whole series of precedents for a new kind of Star Wars movie that has never been made before, i.e., a spinoff that doesn’t necessarily have to tie into the main saga.
Those precedents include things as simple as the distinction between so-called “saga” films (the numbered installments beginning with “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace”) and the newly minted “anthology” films, such as “Rogue One” and the upcoming Han Solo prequel, which reportedly will be distinguished by the subtitle “A Star Wars Story.” (According to cheatsheet.com, the title for the latter film, to be directed by “The Lego Movie’s” Phil Lord and Chris Miller, is rumored to be “Han Solo: A Star Wars Story.”)
They also include surprisingly sticky issues, such as whether to have a text crawl at the beginning of the film, one of Star Wars’ most recognizable elements. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy addressed this very question, saying, “We talk about that all the time. It’s something that we’re right in the midst of discussing even now, so I don’t want to say definitively what we’re doing. The crawl and some of those elements live so specifically within the ‘saga’ films that we are having a lot of discussion about what will define the (standalone) Star Wars Stories separate and apart from the saga films. So we’re right in the middle of talking about that.”
As any fan can attest, it is the small details that give Star Wars its distinctive feel — the old-fashioned wipes and dissolves and irises between scenes, the opening text (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …”), the specific sound of blaster fire, etc. Stylistic details such as these all add up to a larger, more serious question that the anthology films will have to answer: How much can they deviate from the iconic Star Wars formula and still maintain their identity as Star Wars films?
While it’s safe to assume with something as lucrative as Star Wars that even the tiniest change to the formula will be weighed carefully by Lucasfilm brass, one big change has already been decided, namely the music for “Rogue One.” For the first time, the film score will not be written by John Williams. According to Cinema Blend, the legendary composer, whose work on Lucas’ six-movie saga arguably defined the feel of the Star Wars universe as much or more than any other individual element, will be replaced by Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”).
It’s anyone’s guess how this will be received by fans. As the LA Times put it, “‘Star Wars’ without John Williams would be like the Skywalker family without the Force: missing much of its power.”
The 84-year-old Williams, however, may be done for good with Jedis, lightsabers and interstellar dogfights. As reported by JWFan.com, at a recent concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra, he mentioned the possibility of returning for director Rian Johnson’s upcoming “Star Wars: Episode VIII” and said, “I told the producers I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the next one (‘Episode VIII’), but told them I didn’t want anyone else doing it either.”
Changes such as this one are, of course, inevitable over time. That’s the natural consequence of making Star Wars an active franchise again — with each new movie, there will be elements that expand on and, in some cases, alter what has come before.
For that reason, “Rogue One” will very likely be a pivotal film in the Star Wars cinematic universe, helping to set the pattern for all future anthology films.