—well, where “others will surely succeed,” Rogue One (Edwards; 2016) splits an infinitesimally tangled hair; the same style of which Enterprise, later Star Trek: Enterprise, (Berman & Braga; 2001-2005), split, and Star Trek’s about to Discovery (2017-) all over again. As much as I would like to put canon, established, disregarded, aside, for both universes, that’s essentially what we’re dealing with here; a backstage war over fictional history, how it was, how it should be, and how we’re gonna fuck it up now. The much maligned Prequel Trilogy (Lucas; 1999-2005) had a similar affair with The Clone Wars (Lucas; 2008-2015), beloved by fans, backfilling backstory everything between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith was missing in their standalone selves. How I regard, I approach, films, in situations like these is, admittedly, peculiar: Anything that started out a film, I consider canon. Conversely: Anything that started out as something else, that became a film, or a series of films, I consider that, instead, canon. It’s a seeming paradox of precedence I have; whichever comes first, in whatever format, Trumps. I have yet to reconcile a book adapted into a film, in which a standalone film inspired said book.
There are other, niggling things. Plot. Characters. Dialogue. CGI. Re/appropriation. Fatigue. Michael Giacchino’s film score feeling like a B-side. And that’s just the tip of an iceberg of problems I have with A Star Wars Story. I went in, premiere, whitewashed, men-mostly, night, seriously wanting to like this film; had staved off several trailers, knew as little about it as I could. And I still couldn’t. I knew from the first title-card I wasn’t going to like it, and ambivalently, I tried to not not to. I tried for weeks afterward. Months, now. Why? Because I love Star Wars. Even though it breaks some fundamental rules about filmmaking, and not just, now, Star Wars making. Title-cards hint at the fact an audience won’t know where it is unless it’s told; that we’re jumping from planet to planet, so contextually blasé in and of themselves, reproduced, alienless familiarity, they’re not visually distinct enough to warrant a difference without them; in space or time. It’s not that I don’t know where I am, either, it’s that I just don’t care.
Empathy’s important. Especially with ensemble cast scenarios; time factors into it, usually subliminally. How something like The Avengers (Whedon; 2012) gets away with it, is by establishing each character in their own standalone film; building up their strengths and weaknesses, their personality, individually. That way, when they come together, time’s spent on The Avengers plot, and not Iron Man (Favreau; 2008), or Captain America: The First Avenger (Johnston; 2011). In splitting the hair the way they have, Rogue One pre/supposes a dangerous, un/conscious question: Where are, ostensibly now, where were, their characters in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (Lucas; 1977)? A problem, I feel, everyone throughout the film is aware of: Everyone is innately expendable, and embraced that way.