WHAT: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
WHEN: Hits theaters Friday, Dec. 16. The earliest showing at all locations is roughly 7 p.m.
RUNTIME: 2 hr. 13 mins.
Since 1977, George Lucas has captivated a legion of fans who have devoted countless hours (and dollars) to the “Star Wars” franchise. According to www.statisticbrain.com, the franchise has grossed a whopping $30.2 billion – and that doesn’t even include Lucas’ estimated net worth of $3.6 billion.
According to Bloomberg.com, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” may see a $167 million opening box office in just the United States alone.
Set shortly before the events of 1977’s “A New Hope,” “Rogue One,” which hits theaters Friday, chronicles the mission of a ragtag group of rebels to steal the plans to the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star. Featuring a diverse ensemble cast including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker and Donnie Yen, the film is the closest thing to a full-on war movie ever seen in the “Star Wars” series, blending the familiar spectacle of interstellar dogfights, droids and laser battles with a gritty cinema verite style, a visceral kind of violence and a degree of moral murkiness new to the franchise.
This is the second film in the franchise produced by Disney since they coughed up $4 billion for Lucasfilms in 2012. Disney already has a second standalone planned with a “Han Solo” movie set to be released on May 25, 2018. “Episode VIII” debuting next year at this time and “Episode IX” will follow, with an as-yet-announced release date. According to Deadline, Disney plans to release a new “Star Wars” film every year through 2020, alternating between episodes of a trilogy and standalone films.
“Disney’s strategy is also about keeping “Star Wars” in consumers’ minds and feeding other parts of the company’s empire,” continued Deadline. “Already “Rogue One” characters and memorabilia are being added to Disney’s theme parks. The 6-inch, fully-poseable Jyn Erso action figure is available at Disney stores for $20.”
“The question is whether there will be box-office interest in a non-saga film,” said Doug Creutz, an analyst with Cowen & Co. “This is the first side story. What’s the interest going to be? I don’t know.”
THE VIBE: Space ships. Stormtroopers. Wicked costumes. Droids. Phenomenal special effects. Punchy one liners. Good vs evil. Darth Vader. You get the picture.
THE VERDICT: For the most part there’s little that can be said about “Star Wars” that hasn’t already been said, as a series or for this particular standalone movie. What can be said is this: “Rogue One” is going to be the hottest ticket for weekends to come.
The Los Angeles Times contributed.
Q&A with the director
“Rogue One” director Gareth Edwards talked with the Los Angeles Times in advance of the movie’s opening this week. Here, 3 questions from the interview.
Q. “Rogue One” has a grittier, more naturalistic feel than any previous “Star Wars” movie. Did you know from the start you wanted that tone?
Edwards: If I was going to do it, I felt like I just didn’t want it to be a glossy, disposable popcorn kind of blockbuster. I take my “Star Wars” quite seriously. There’s humor in the movie, but as a fan I just wanted it to feel real.
Stylistically we knew to some extent it was going to be a war movie, so we looked at footage from Vietnam, the Gulf War and World War II. In the edit, we did a rough version of the movie using pieces of war footage and photography.
It felt so strong when you took real footage from a real conflict and instead of a Huey you put in an X-wing and you put Rebel helmets on the guys who are in a trench scared for their lives. You just look at that image and go, “Oh my God, I’ve always wanted to see that.”
Q. Normally on a huge movie like this, everything is meticulously planned out and storyboarded. But by all accounts, you took a pretty loose and flexible approach throughout, with characters and scenes sometimes evolving and changing even as you were shooting.
Edwards: I spent 10 or 15 years doing visual effects and, if I learned anything from that time, it’s that you do the best work when you let things go wrong and embrace the happy accidents. Then suddenly it feels fresh and you’re somewhere new.
Q. We’re living in tense, fractured times. Obviously you couldn’t have anticipated what the zeitgeist would be when you started on “Rogue One” 2 1/2 years ago, but do you see it now through that political lens?
Edwards: We didn’t put any political slant on this whatsoever, but I’m happy that people feel that it might be relevant because it means that the story is reflecting the human condition somehow. In a modern society there shouldn’t be wars, but there’s probably as much fighting going on now as there was 2,000 years ago, if not more, which just tells you that we don’t change.
I think “Star Wars,” when done properly, should be timeless. People like to think of it as science fiction and the future, but I think it’s got more in common with history and mythology.
For me, that’s what makes “Star Wars” have meaning. OK, it’s spaceships and robots and explosions. But there’s an inner truth to it that’s speaking about the world.