I promise no spoilers.
On Thursday 15 December at 12:01 am I saw the midnight screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and it was amazing! Dare I say it was better than The Force Awakens, and I would even go so far as to say it is now my fourth favourite Star Wars movie following A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It was perfectly paced, the characterisation was brilliant and even though I knew the outcome (no spoilers, but it’s a direct prequel to A New Hope so you know what I’m saying) I was still sitting on the edge of my seat biting my fingers through every turn of the action - would they do it? Could they really get the plans outta there? Damn it! Disney strikes again - they really got this one right. Back to the movie, and aside from the story being wonderfully written, you'll be surprised by the "return" of some people you did not expect, you'll hate/love the main protagonists and you'll see some old friends.
One thing that really stood out for me though, when I wasn't fan-girl-ing out to a new level of nerd-dom, is the realisation of how much the final film must have changed from the first trailer. I don’t know if any of you were following the movie’s production, but at the first run through Disney were not happy, calling for major re-writes and re-shoots. They felt the film didn't fit with the classic 'Star Wars' Universe. This attention to detail and passion for the story has paid off, and Rogue One is – for me – a perfect Star Wars movie. Disney know their audience. It’s older nerds like me, who were there at the beginning and who knew what it was like. The beauty of Rogue One though is that the story will still capture the imagination of new Star Wars fans. It’s solid, dark, grimy and intense, with compelling moments of light and humour. The kids will love it.
Something that was thankfully missing from Rogue One was the removal of a simple line from the script. It was only a tiny piece of dialogue, spoken by Jyn Erso - "This is a rebellion isn't it? Well... I rebel" and it appeared in the first trailer for the film. I hated that line from the first time I saw it. It added a huge cringe element to the movie, and I have no idea why someone would write such cliched nonsense. As a writer, the relief at the loss of this clumsy line was palpable. This then got me thinking about just how much a small change to the dialog can make or break a scene. Words are so powerful. Being a writer one of the first things you learn is that dialog is difficult. You have to write for each character, in their voice, and they need to react as their character should. The conversation and interaction needs to be as natural as possible, otherwise the spell of immersion is broken, and the story dissipates in a fog of disbelief. This is something Harrison Ford understood all to well, and it’s common knowledge he hated the Star Wars scripts, even going on to say something like “You can read this shit, but you can’t say it” to Lucas.
In fact if you watch all the Star Wars prequels (Phantom Menace, Clone Wars, Revenge of the Sith, but only if you’re feeling brave – they really are bloody awful, you may vomit at the horror of it) then you actually start to get an understanding of the complete lack of respect Lucas had for dialog and the story. As a writer this breaks my heart. He originally created something amazing, something people loved, and then he almost destroyed it all because of ego.
Getting back to how the spoken word can change a scene however, and while I readily admit I have multiple issues with Lucas, one unforgivable thing he did that stands out for me occurred when he re-issued the original Star Wars movies all digitally enhanced and ‘special’. Again, it really is just a tiny thing, and revolves around a small exchange that happens between Luke and R2D2 on Dagobah. When they land in the swamp, and R2 falls into the water he is eaten up by some kind of ridge-back-whale creature (as a kid that’s always what I thought it was). Luke frantically searches for his robot buddy, and just when he’s given up R2 is spat out like a man leaving a canon. As Luke runs over to R2, and sets him back on his feet, he originally says: “You’re lucky you don’t taste very good.” A great example of Star Wars humour lightening the mood. I really loved this line. But then came the digitally remastered travesties (don’t even get me started on new Anakin), and for some reason Lucas had changed this line. I even cross referenced the theatrical releases to the remastered versions to confirm this! Now it wouldn’t have been so bad if he had changed the line to something better, but instead we got something so bland I can’t even remember what he changed it to. Why Lucas? Why! Anyway, at the time it was pretty much just another annoying Lucas gaff, but when the prequels finally emerged it just proved to me how much Lucas hates words. For me, someone for whom words are their life, that’s a whole pile of Bantha Poodoo.
Anyway, go see Rogue One. See it three times. I promise if you love IV, V and VI you’ll love it.
May the Force will be with you. Always.
Disclaimer: Promise not redeemable for cash or any other prizes. In the 40 years I have been on this planet I have seen Star Wars: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi over 500 times. I can quote it word for word, much to the annoyance of my husband. Sometimes I block things out though. Like, who the fu*k is Hayden Christiansen?