*** IF YOU HAVENT YET SEEN ROGUE ONE, SKIP THIS ARTICLE…SPOILERS! ***
It’s no surprise that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story handily won its opening weekend. Disney projected that the film would debut in the range of $120 million to $150 million…it actually ended up pulling in $155 million in North America this weekend. While it is around $100 million short of what Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens made during its opening around this same time last year, Rogue One has also pulled in an additional $290.5 million globally (this is without the ever-so-important and lucrative Chinese market as it won’t open there until January 6). Suffice it to say, it is not the failure that the #DumpStarWars crowd had hoped it would be.
For anybody that had been following Rogue One since it was initially announced, we had a sense of trepidation for this movie, seeing that it was delving into unknown territory from a franchise that has held such fondness for almost 40 years now. Some of that trepidation also came from rumors that multiple rewrites and reshoots had been done. According to The Hollywood Reporter the shots were made to “lighten the mood” and “Bring some levity into the story” and change the tone of the movie from a war movie to something more akin to a “classic” Star Wars movie–an ironic statement seeing that Rogue One has been said to be the one movie to live up to the WAR in the title. Earlier this month, director Gareth Edwards was interviewed by Josh Rottenberg of the Los Angeles Times and had this to say about it:
This summer, the Internet went crazy over reports that the studio was nervous about “Rogue One” and the movie was undergoing major changes. What was it like for you to be in the middle of that — and how much truth was there to the rumors?
It’s really hard to read things online sometimes because you want to say something but it’s pointless. It’s futile to get involved.
What happened was that I’d say a third of the movie or more has this embedded documentary style to it, and as a result we shot hours and hours and days and days of material. Normally when you put a film together it goes together like A-B-C-D-E and you move on. Whereas we had so many permutations, so many different ways it could be constructed, it took longer in the edit to find the exact version.
We’d always planned to do a pickup shoot but we needed a lot of time to figure out all this material and get the best out of it. So that pushed the entire schedule in a big way. Then Disney saw the film and reacted really well and they said, “Whatever you need, we’re going to support you.” Our visual-effects shot count went from 600 to nearly 1,700, so suddenly we could do absolutely anything we wanted. To design 1,000 visual effects shots should take a year, so it was all hands to the pump and we never came up for air really until about a week ago.
It would be beautiful if you write a story, you shoot exactly that, you edit it and it’s a hit. But art — or good art — doesn’t work like that. It’s a process, and you experiment and react and improve. And if I make more films, which I hope to, I want to make them like that as well, where it’s organic and it’s not predetermined.
You can have a dictatorship creatively where you say, “We’re going to do this, this and this and I’m not going to listen to anyone and I’ve pre-decided it in my head.” I think that kind of filmmaking is like the Empire and this other kind of filmmaking is more like the Rebellion. I feel like I’m more of a Rebel than those other guys, so I prefer to be in that camp.
There were reports that Tony Gilroy was brought in to help with the reshoots and the overall tone and the ending underwent changes. Was that part of it?
Things kept improving constantly and the film was getting better and better — and if you’re improving it, you don’t stop. I think any other movie you would say, “That’ll do. We’re going to get a hit.” But “Star Wars” is going to live forever if you do it properly. We just can’t let it go. You’ve got keep going until they prise it out of your hands.
Making “Star Wars” is a team sport, really. You can’t make these massive movies completely on your own. Even from the costumes to the guns to the ships to the VFX, it’s a real team effort.
And honestly, if anyone takes credit for all of it, it should be George Lucas. We’re just borrowing it. George gave it to the world and it’s like this precious thing you get to hold for a moment and do your thing with it and then you have to give it back. “Star Wars” doesn’t belong to you. You borrow it from the world.
Film editor and blogger Vashi Nedomansky painstakingly isolated 46 individual shots that were shared in the various teasers, trailers, and promotional material that never made the final cut of the film:
For those that have seen the movie, we know that Rogue One is even darker than Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back–every single protagonist that we get to know and love ends up dying. This is the only ending that we logically could have expected as Jyn and Company were never to be heard from in any of the subsequent movies. The ending did have a silver lining as it served to definitely put an end to fan theories that Jyn was Rey’s mother. The deaths were leavened by the appearance of CG Princess Leia and her single line: “Hope”. According to Gareth Edwards, this wasn’t what was originally scripted:
The very first version, they didn’t. In the screenplay. And it was just assumed by us that we couldn’t do that. ‘They’re not going to let us do that.’ So I was trying to figure out how this ends where that doesn’t happen. And then everyone read that and there was this feeling of like, ‘They’ve got to die, right?’ And everyone was like, ‘Yeah, can we?’
We thought we weren’t going to be allowed to but Kathy [Kennedy, President of Lucasfilm] and everyone at Disney were like ‘Yeah it makes sense/ I guess they have to because they’re not in A New Hope.’ And so from that point on we had the license.
I kept waiting for someone to go, ‘You know what? Could we just film an extra scene where we see Jyn and Cassian, they’re okay and they’re on another planet?’ And it never came. No one ever gave us that note, so we got to do it.
Thankfully this was never shot. We got an amazing and emotionally hard-hitting film when we could’ve easily gotten just another disappointing prequel in the vein of Episodes 1-3. It is my fervent hope that Disney keeps the guts that it displayed in this decision with all the upcoming Star Wars movies–sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good of the story.