'Rogue One': Why It Could Turn 'Star Wars' in a Dark Direction

"The film doesn't unfold how you think," teased director Gareth Edwards. Will 'Rogue One' be the downbeat alternative to the main series?

How far can you push Star Wars before it stops being Star Wars?

For Lucasfilm — and particularly for everyone involved in the creation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — this isn't a theoretical question; the movie has already gone through a round of reshootsreportedly to ensure it more closely matched the tone of "classic" Star Wars. But when talking about the movie to USA Today, director Gareth Edwards has once again suggested that Rogue One won't be the movie fans are expecting.

"Even though we’re not telling the story of Luke Skywalker, it was important to me that we capture the same themes and emotion," Edwards said, explaining that Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso is "not the person she was supposed to be" because of the intergalactic war between the Empire and the Rebellion. He added, "The film doesn’t unfold how you think. It’s not the same path as Star Wars."

That last line is interesting. Star Wars, ultimately, is a story of redemption — at least insofar as the central Anakin and Luke Skywalker story of the original six movies goes. The "story of Luke Skywalker," as Edwards calls it, is really the second half of Anakin's story, and is all about Luke pushing back against his father's misdeeds to such a degree that his dad himself sees the light at the very last minute and comes back from the dark side. So what, exactly, does it mean to not take the same path?

There are some obvious options. Jyn fails to redeem her father is the most obvious, and something that we already know is true, to some degree; the Death Star still exists in the original Star Wars movie, after all, so it's not as if Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) sees the error of his ways and undoes his work creating the most destructive weapon imaginable at the end of Rogue One. But are there other avenues?

Jyn could be forced to kill her father, but last year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already served up patricide in the franchise (and made it the centerpiece of one character's turn to the dark side in the process); repeating that trick in the very next movie could feel oddly anticlimactic. Could Galen kill Jyn? Curiously, that might be too dark for the franchise, despite Darth Vader's origin being revealed in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith to include the slaughter of multiple "younglings"; at least in those cases they were essentially faceless props, as opposed to a father killing his own child.

And then there's what might be the most likely outcome: Jyn abandons the Rebellion to join her father in the Empire. If this happens, it'll be notable for having been teased in the very first teaser for the movie without anyone paying too much attention at the time. As a counterpoint to the arc of Anakin Skywalker, it's a smart — if cynical — move, and one that provides something that the franchise has lacked to this point: a sympathetic face to the Empire that isn't Darth Vader's. (Okay, Vader's helmet. Pedants.)

Depending on the timeline for later Star Wars Story spin-offs, placing Jyn as an Imperial officer at the end of Rogue One would create a villain who could be used in later movies who the audience would want to see more of, in addition to building a character who could anchor her own future projects. It's a decision that could pay off in later movies, and for the long-term health of the overall Star Wars franchise, but the question remains: Is it playing too much with the Star Wars formula if Rogue One becomes, for all intents and purposes, the origin of a supervillain?

All — including just what Edwards meant by a different path — will be revealed when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is released Dec. 16.

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