The stakes are high for the first standalone film in the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One. While the fantasy series has always been about celebrating joy in the middle of conflict, Rogue One will push the boundaries even further with a grittier, more realistic tone than ever before.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Gareth Edwards discussed how Rogue One is a big step in altering the future of the franchise. Following the relaunching of Star Wars last year with The Force Awakens, Rogue One explores new character stories and sets up films that span beyond Episode IX.
Despite the challenges and high expectations, Edwards admitted that working on Stars Wars is a dream come true. While editing the final audio for the movie, Edwards recalled how he felt at home filming Rogue One.
"Even though there's a lot of pressure on this movie, it's really impossible to feel it because it reminds you so much of when you grew up and when you felt most comfortable," Edwards explained. "It'd hard to get intimidated when you constantly look left and see a Stormtrooper or look right and see an X-Wing. It just feels like you're at home again."
Given the success of The Force Awakens, fans can rest assure that Disney has grand plans for the franchise, which it purchased for some $4 billion from LucasFilm. According to Variety, future projects include a spinoff movie based on Han Solo and Chewbacca's early days.
Kathleen Kennedy, the chief of LucasFilm, described Rogue One as similar to a World War II adventure film, while Han's standalone is more like a Wild West shootout.
"We felt that's so indicative of what those saga films are. Initially, we probably will begin the film in a way that is traditional, with just the title," Kennedy added. "This moves closer to a heist or Western type feel. We've talked about [Frederic] Remington and those primary colors that are used in his paintings defining the look and feel of the film.
Another element that separates Rogue One from its predecessors is its departure from George Lucas' iconic opening, which has been a part of every Star Wars film to date. Collider reports that the standalone will ditch the opening crawl, although nothing official has been confirmed.
Part of the success of The Force Awakens was due to Daisy Ridley and John Boyega's casting as lead characters. The Star Wars team is committed to bringing even more diversity to the table in the coming films, including a female director.
"We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do Star Wars, they're set up for success," Kennedy explained. "They're gigantic films, and you can't come into them with essentially no experience."
The plan is to bring someone on board who is just starting to expand their career, not necessarily a director who is already well established. The franchise did a similar thing with Colin Trevorrow, the director of Star Wars: Episode IX. Trevorrow had little experience prior to his work on Jurassic World.
"We want to really start to focus in on people we would love to work with and see what kinds of things they're doing to progress up that ladder now, and then pull them in when the time is right," Kennedy revealed.
Of course, the future of the franchise still hinges on the success of Rogue One. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film is tracking to be the biggest box-office success of 2016. Some projections indicate the franchise will pull down $130 million over opening weekend, and that's just in North America.Movies released before Christmas typically don't experience high earnings. In fact, before Force Awakens, no movie launched in December made more than $85 over opening weekend. This includes Avatar's record-breaking pace.
Although Rogue One is expected to earn high, Bob Iger, the chairman of Walt Disney Co., admitted that they never thought it would match Force Awakens. "Yes, the marketing material that we've had out has been extremely well received. We've not ever felt it would do the level that Force Awakens did, but we've been very, very encouraged that the level of interest in this is as high as it was for Force Awakens," Iger explained.
Despite plans to expand the Star Wars universe with future spinoffs, Disney has not announced release dates for any films beyond Episode IX. On the bright side, it sounds like the studio has a lot of plans to change the future of Star Wars while remaining true to its core themes.
Fans can watch their favorite characters back in action when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, starring Felicity Jones, Ben Mikkelsen, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, and Mads Mikkelsen, opens in theaters on December 16. Check out the latest trailer below.[Featured Image by Disney/LucasFilm]