Upon hearing the news that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is reportedly "in crisis", with Disney ordering expensive reshoots of the franchise's first spin-off, I was not worried. Reshoots have happened to many movies that, in the end, turned out great and probably just needed little tweaking. What got me slightly worried though, is the supposed reason behind the reshoots - an effort to lighten the tone of the film... a film that is supposed to be a war film.
I will explain why and, if I may, offer a few glimmers of optimism on why it is still generally looking good.
Quick summary of the situation
Most, who are interested in the subject probably already know it, so I will try keep it brief.
The film is undergoing a major overhaul as Disney executives were unhappy with the first cut and the fact that the movie isn't testing well. Therefore, Rogue One will have to go back into four weeks of expensive reshoots in July.
As is often the case, it does seem to be blown out of proportion, since it is reported that the film-making team and the studio always anticipated additional shooting and second unit work to make the film the absolute best it can be and the actors were aware there would be additional shooting.
However, what really got my attention and made me write this article, is the reasoning behind it.
As said before, the reshoots are an effort to lighten the tone of the film. To elaborate a bit further, that move is happening after Disney executives screened the movie and felt it was tonally off with what a "classic" Star Wars movie should feel like. Therefore the goal of the reshoots will be to lighten the mood, bring some levity into the story and restore a sense of fun and adventure. So, what is the problem?
Obviously, there is a lot riding on Rogue One. It is going to be a first of it's kind - a Star Wars spin-off, and needs to do well no matter what. Both critically and in the box office.
Therefore, it is understandable, that a too dark movie would alienate the audience. The reason behind it is, that even though it is a spin-off, it still has a "Star Wars" logo on it. This means that people expect certain aura and qualities from it (even if subconciously).
Spin-off as a concept
However, let's not forget that it is still a spin-off. More importantly, a first of it's kind and it needs to set a precedent for the future Star Wars spin-offs. To understand what precedent it needs to set, let's quickly go over what a spin-off as a concept should be.
In it's essence, a spin-off is an attempt to explore a known (fictional) cinematic universe from a different angle, usually through the perspective of other characters ( a.k.a not the main characters of the original product or maybe just one of them) inhabiting the universe.
The need for a spin-off arises from the fact, that if you make a movie set in a certain fictional universe, then you can never use up all of the potential the universe has to offer, since a good movie needs focus. This means that there will always be interesting aspects left to explore, that might have made the "main movie(s)" feel too bloated or simply not go along with the feeling and tone of the movie(s).
Let's bring it to the context of Star Wars
We started out with a series of movies set in a rich and ever expanding fictional universe. One of the main reasons behind their success is that within that expansive universe, lays a very simple story with timeless themes. Family, loyality, existential crysis, questioning the world around you, losing your way in life, redemption, coming of age story and so on.
In any case, the massive universe in Star Wars movies exists as an interesting backdrop to tell these timeless stories and explore these themes in a new way. As explained before, that focus on a simple story leaves a lot untapped potential on the table that the universe offers. This potential has so far been brilliantly explored in the TV series "The Clone Wars" and "Rebels" and also in novels and comics. But, understandably so, a live action feature film generates a lot more attention and is a bigger undertaking in every way.
Setting the precedent
The precedent in question is that a Star Wars spin-off could be (doesn't always have to be, but could!) something completely different from the movies in tone and approach. That is necessary in order to explore the full potential of the Star Wars universe.
What Rogue One needs to do among other things (like being a good movie ;) ), is to set a precedent, that it is okay to do something different in Star Wars universe and explore it from different angles (in this case, a war movie). If that precedent is not set, we might not get the full potential of what spin-off as a concept provides. In other words, if we do not dare to explore the universe further and always stick close to the tone of the movies, there will be a massive amount of untapped potential.
Having said that and to repeat what I said earlier, of course it needs to feel like Star Wars. Even if many would like something tonally completely different that sets the aforementioned precedent, we still need it to feel like Star Wars, for better or worse (at least subconciously). It would be naive to think that a lot of the movies success isn't riding on that factor.
The glimmer of optimism
That, however, leads us to the glimmer of optimism, I was talking about regarding the reshoots. I think that Disney understands the importance of setting that precedent of exploring Star Wars universe from different angles with Rogue One.
To explain it further, in order to set that precedent, the movie has to be a success. Therefore, it is necessary not to go too dark with the first go around. As said before, even people, who really want it to be dark and different (myself included), still want it to have (even if only subconciously) at least some of that Star Wars feel.
To sum up
I hope that the reshoots are made to make sure that a strong and successful precedent is set to explore Star Wars universe from different angles with creating an entertaining and good movie experience. And if it is set, perhaps we can go full gritty and dark (or in any different and new direction) in the future. Here's to success of Rogue One, a movie, I still have a lot of faith in :) .