From Badass to Basic In A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Star Wars: Rogue One L to R: Actors Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley ©Lucasfilm 2016

When Disney acquired Lucasfilm Ltd. for just over $4 billion back in 2012 it left a lot of questions about the future of its most valuable property: Star Wars

Quickly plans were laid out to release one film per year alternating between a new trilogy and stand alone films.

The first addition, The Force Awakens, was wildly successful in reminding fans of the reason they fell in love with these movies in the first place and also in convincing a whole new generation to experience a galaxy far, far away.

It had a very familiar feelings to the movies we have come to expect from the franchise over the past 40 years.

However, what really peaked the interest of life-long fans was the potential for movies that explored a darker, grittier portion of the universe that they had been consumed by since they were kids.

Cue Rogue One. Pitched as a Star Wars war/heist movie centered around stealing the blueprints to the Death Star, which (spoiler alert) plays a crucial role in the original trilogy.

The initial teaser trailer immediately introduces us to the film’s female protagonist, Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones.

A voiceover reads a laundry list of criminal offenses as she is lead, in handcuffs, to a briefing room where we learn she’s been on her own since she was 15 before being described with the following adjectives: Aggressiverecklessundisciplined.

Before the Lucasfilm logo emerges on the screen she leaves us with the lines that would echo through the minds of Star Wars fans for the coming weeks:

“This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel.”

The final 30 seconds of the trailer are accompanied by high-pitched sirens and the voice of Forrest Whitaker as we are taken through battle scenes and given brief exposure to the newest inhabitants of the Star Wars Universe. And finally we are left with an image of Jyn in a black suit, unsure if she’s undercover or has succumbed to the power of the dark side.

jyn-1

That trailer arrived in early April and fans, almost unanimously, rejoiced. Not only are we being given the type of Star Wars movie many of us have been longer clamoring for, but we are presented with a female protagonist.

And not your run of the mill damsel in distress, Disney and Lucasfilm actually gave us a strong female lead and one that is not only an undeniable badass, but one that is needed by the Rebellion, and one that is acting on her own behalf.

But… then rumors of reshoots began circulating and is became rather apparent that our street smart and rebellious female lead was no longer an acceptable hero.

“…it does seem to me that they had this very exciting idea to open up the gates and make it more creative and then they realized ‘holy shit we’re making a Star Wars movie.'” – Andy Greenwald, The Watch

According to The Hollywood Reporter executives at Disney felt that the tone was not in line with the other films in the franchise and they felt it needed an additional “sense of fun.”

Because nothing screams fun like the attempted overthrow of a fascist regime…

With fears that a war story wouldn’t spark enough interest they enlisted Tony Gilroy to head the rewrites and oversee reshoots in an attempt to make the story lighter and more appealing to a wide audience.

It was fascinating to see these decisions take hold and witness the tonal shift in real-time through the release of the final two trailers.

Our protagonist loner now seems much more preoccupied with rallying those around her and she appears visibly nervous in many shots, something that was completely absent in the teaser.

This was seemingly quite minor and went unnoticed by many, but it served as foreshadowing for the dramatic shift that would emerge in the final trailer.

It opens with a conversation with Jyn and her… oh, oh goddammit… her father.

Yes, the “tremendous” motivating factor that exists in characters throughout countless movies, the dreaded “daddy issues” cliche was introduced.

All of a sudden our protagonist is no longer the criminal with a specific set of skills who was recruited to aid the rebellion, but instead she is a little girl they needed because her father was conspiring with the enemy.

Jyn, with a quivering lip mid-way through the trailer, exclaims, “if my father built this, we need to find him.” And with that line the integrity of a unique character and the movie we were so fascinated with becomes compromised.

As if bringing down the most dangerous and hated group in the ENTIRE galaxy wasn’t enough motivation to progress the plot, they needed to bring in the desire for a daughter to atone for the sins of her estranged father.

A film once touted as a Star Wars war film is now being described as a story about a father/daughter relationship.

“My main takeaway is that it had been run through the Hollywood machine.” – Andy Greenwald

The success of The Force Awakens may be partially to blame for the sweeping changes. A film that grossed over $2 billion worldwide will certainly entice any studio to try and imitate its formula as much as possible.

And yes, the deconstructing of a gritty film and injecting it with additional lighter moments isn’t always a bad thing, except when it feels like it significantly alters the message being relayed.

Arguably the worst part of the decision is that it not only attacks the intelligence of the audience, but questions the storytellers and actors ability to relay a message without blatantly smacking everyone in the face with it.

This lack of faith in the ability to get across the stakes of the events occurring in the plot and creating an emotional response from viewers has inspired them to force feed us with this daddy issues angle from a family we have literally no connection to.

The Ringer’s Chris Ryan made a great and obvious point, the Erso’s aren’t the Corleone’s, we aren’t going to get spend four hours with them and form a well-rounded perspective to mold our rooting interests. Instead we are going to be privy to very select moments and be expected to manufacture a response.

With all that said, I completely understand that Hollywood is ultimately a business with a goal to make money, lots of money, and in order to do that they have to cast the widest possible net to capture a big enough audience to fuel that goal.

But, as a result, whether purposely or not, they have squander an opportunity to create a genuinely unique story and in the process have appeared to suck the life out what was arguably going to be one of the year’s most interesting characters.

Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond hyped for Rogue One to hit theaters in mid-December, but I won’t be able to help but wonder what could have been.