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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Rogue One Reshoots and the Danger of Tonal Shifts


In the blockbuster game, reshoots have become a pretty common practice.  We have especially seen this in the wake of every blockbuster now seeking to join the billion dollar club.  Recent reports say that Rogue One, the upcoming standalone Star Wars film ,will be the next movie to head for reshoots.  What makes this situation a little different is the reason.  Allegedly, Disney execs are NOT happy with the state of Rogue One.  Comparing Gareth Edward's film to a war movie, Disney is said to be concerned that the film does not have the right tone for a Star Wars film (read: more adventure, more fun, more humor).  As a result of these concerns, Edwards and crew will regroup this summer for four weeks of reshoots to provide Rogue One a bit of a tonal shift.
On the outside, this move makes a ton of sense on Disney's part.  As many sources have been reporting, Rogue One is a pretty big risk for Disney.  This is the first time we have had a standalone Star Wars theatrical release, completely separate from the main episodic adventures.  Given how close Rogue One takes place to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, it makes sense that Disney feels this film should have a similar tone to the classic Star Wars films, something which obviously worked in the favor of last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  So why is this a problem?
Almost two months ago, the first trailer for Rogue One debuted to quite a bit of acclaim.  Not only were people praising the film's diverse cast, but many expressed a lot of excitement in seeing classic Star Wars characters and vehicles in settings that were new and fresh.  I can personally attest that Rogue One's teaser got just as many screams and claps in the theater as any of the "big" moments of Captain America: Civil War.  It was obvious from this trailer that Rogue One was going to be a different animal, something we hadn't seen before using imagery we were deeply familiar with.  The excitement has been absolutely palpable, but it seems Disney is more concerned with how the general public will feel.
Like I said, this makes complete sense.  Rogue One may not join the billion dollar club, but you can bet Disney wants it to get as close as possible.  It makes perfect monetary sense to want to stick to what has worked before and hope that the audience doesn't tire of seeing, essentially, the same thing over and over.  What makes this scary is this question: if Disney is going to force a tonal shift on Rogue One, where does this desire for an assimilated tone stop?
As many know, Rogue One is just the first of many planned films under the "A Star Wars Story" banner.  The next film is a Han Solo prequel tale from Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (The LEGO Movie/21 Jump Street).  Given the previous work of these two, we can probably safely assume that the film will follow Disney's strict guidelines for tone, adventure, and humor. But what about the film after Han Solo?  Or the one after that?  Will Disney truly force us to have to watch a new Star Wars movie every year that, at its core, feels exactly the same as the one before it?
When the concept of standalone Star Wars films between episodic tales was announced, most fans were pretty excited at the concept.  Not only did this mean more stories in this universe, but it brought even more opportunities for fresh, up and coming directors to bring their vision to the world of Star Wars.  Gareth Edwards, coming off the success of his 2014 Godzilla remake, was one of the most exciting choices Disney made.  Edwards allegedly approached Rogue One with the intention of making a war movie, using films such as Saving Private Ryan as influences.  Not only did the teaser for the film seem to confirm this, but, as mentioned, people were mostly sold on the tonal shift.
The idea of bringing in highly creative talent is that they will put their unique spin on your story.  While it is certainly understandable that Disney would not want their directors and writers to have complete freedom to make whatever they want, one can assume these people were hired BECAUSE of the vision they wanted to bring to the table.  If that is indeed why Disney hired the likes of Edwards, JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, and Lord and Miller, then why are they seemingly stifling the creativity of what was one of their biggest gets?  Perhaps we could all be wrong and Disney only wants to make some minor tweaks, but four weeks to make said tweaks doesn't seem to lend itself to that narrative.  If they really want Edwards to make some major changes, though, the guy may be reconsidering his decision to not go after Godzilla 2 instead.
Room for experimentation can only be healthy for a franchise.  More than a number of parallels can be drawn between this situation and how Marvel Studios handles things.  The somewhat tonal conformity and studio control was something that drove Edgar Wright away from Ant-Man, although people like James Gunn, Shane Black, and the Russo brothers have certainly thrived under the Marvel mold.  That being said, there is a reason people praise Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier instead of, say, Thor: The Dark World.  There's just something about a director being able to have the freedom to try new things while still checking all the boxes the studio thinks they need.
Perhaps this is all a waste of time and Rogue One will be just fine and Gareth Edwards will be able to keep enough of his vision in tact to avoid another Josh Trank and Fantastic Four situation.  Nevertheless, Disney holds the keys to one of the most lucrative film franchises ever, and the idea that they seemingly want to put out the same product with different wrapping is more than a little scary.  The well of familiarity and fun adventure may runneth over now, but the House of Mouse may find that it will run dry a lot faster than they think.  Perhaps letting an actual audience see the current cut of Rogue One instead of just producers and executives would help their decision on the tone of future films.  There is a lot of good will towards Star Wars right now, something the franchise desperately needed a decade ago.  Don't waste that good will, Disney.  Let your directors try something new.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens on December 16.

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