At one point or another Star Wars may have broken your heart. Over the course of the prequel films many older fans have suffered at the Sagaís insensitive nature of continually recreating itself into something we didn't know as intimately as the releases before it. There are more than a room full of people Iíve spoken to over the last seventeen years that have felt jilted by what they saw on the silver screen, but I could never relate to them on such topics. I loved The Phantom Menace, and using The Empire Strikes Back Rule*, Attack Of The Clones, and Revenge Of The Sith are the Star Wars films I adore the most.
Star Wars didnít break my heart until December 19, 2015. I wasnít a kid anymore, so it took me a while to bounce back from the heartbreak The Force Awakens left me with. To this day I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive it for robbing us of the happy ending our heroes fought and suffered for in Return Of The Jedi or how instead of showing us Luke training Padawans we only got to hear about it in a throwaway line of dialogue.
As Lucasfilm revealed stuff about Rogue One I remained cautiously optimistic; unwilling to jump back into the game blindly. I wasnít looking for a rebound fling when I went to Skywalker Ranch on December 3rd, 2016. But, like all good love affairs, things never go as you plan.
Lucasfilm held a massive weekend-long Rogue One: A Star Wars Story press junket over the first weekend of December, with the film only a week away from its world premiere. The event was broken into two groups, one that started on Friday and ended on Saturday, and another that started on Saturday and ended on Sunday. We were invited to attend the Saturday-Sunday event. On Saturday evening Lucasfilm held a special screening and reception at Skywalker Ranch's Technical Building. The following morning, they held a question and answer event at their main facility in the Presidio.
As we walked into the Technical Building's Stag Theater that Saturday night, my mind went back to the first time I stepped into that magnificent room way back on September 21, 2001. Back then the Rebelscum team had just taken our first steps into a larger world and, despite what happened only ten days earlier, we were beside ourselves on our first group adventure. That first visit to the theater, Attack Of The Clones was still being put together, and I knew that it would be screened in that room. Back then Star Wars could do me no wrong.
After all in attendance had settled into their seats, Gareth Edwards spoke to us about what we were about to see. The filmmaker was a bit bashful and humble, yet it was very obvious that he was proud and excited to be a part of a galaxy far, far away. In fact, his passion for Star Wars was worn on his sleeve. A professional twelve year old that spent many years of his life creating his own Star Wars adventures. A kid who spent three years pondering what he saw in The Empire Strikes Back and questioning whether Darth Vader was telling Luke Skywalker the truth when he said the words weíll never forget, enacting all possible outcomes with his Palitoy action figures right up until the truth was revealed in Return Of The Jedi. Edwards is a man who quite clearly didn't need to learn the rules of Star Wars in order to make his film. They were dyed in the very fabric of his being; like us.
The original Star Wars generation is different than all those that came after us. We had the first movie come and punch us in the bellies. We werenít expecting Star Wars. We didnít know that our lives would forever be changed by it. Before its release in 1977, our arcades didnít have murals with X-Wing Fighters and Death Stars. Our local pizza joints didnít have interactive robots that looked like tripod garbage cans. Our t-shirts had Donny and Marie, and in our hands were 12-inch action figures with exposed lungs and veins that pumped with blood.
After the first movie came out we thought that was it. Three years later we got the greatest cinematic experience ever and we were all hooked. For us then, Star Wars wasnít yet forever, but it was every waking hour of our lives. We were the ones that had to wait for three very long years to find out that Darth Vader was indeed Anakin Skywalker. For that matter, we didnít even know the name of his true self until Return Of The Jedi. No Star Wars fan that came after will ever be able to fully understand that, but Edwards does because he lived it too.
When watching the 28 minutes of his film, all in attendance could see, right from the opening scene, that Edwards gets Star Wars. While I canít go into details of what was actually shown to us, I can say that it was the closest thing weíve seen to Lucasí Star Wars since he retired. The footage functions as a seamless bridge between the prequels and the original trilogy. The dialogue references things weíve only read about. None of it feels made up. None of it retreads things weíve seen before. It relies on our sense of familiarity without pandering nostalgia.
If you look objectively at all six of Lucasí Star Wars movies (and the Clone Wars as well) youíll see that he was always looking forward and was committed to giving us something different with each release. He was concerned with building upon the story we knew. What we saw of Rogue One feels like it is following that lead. It isnít what weíve seen before. It is something new. Something different. But at the same time, it is something that is aware of the three feature films and a very good animated television series that came before it and three spectacular films that follow it.
I understand why Lucasfilm made the movie it did last year, but where that one hit its audience with what it knew they already loved, this one is aiming at our hearts and minds and giving us more than what we already have. Based on what we've seen in the 28 minutes, the Rebellion Built On Hope will give many Star Wars fans a new hope.
*The Empire Strikes Back Rule: When asking most Star Wars fans what their favorite film in the Saga is, more times than not you'll get the same answer. As such The Empire Strikes Back Rule eliminates the obvious choice and offers the second favorite film. Sure, this doesn't factor in the Original Star Wars Is Still The Best crowd, but it does still promote diversity in Star Wars conversations.