Tony Black on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the unhelpful rumour machine…
We may be living in the age of the geek, but when you examine all the rumour around Rogue One: A Star Wars Story this week, you can’t help but wonder if that Birth. Movies. Death article doing the rounds about ‘broken fandom’ doesn’t hold some water. In the last few days, all kinds of reports have been circulating about how Gareth Edwards’ first foray into Star Wars will be undergoing ‘expensive’ reshoots this summer in order to make the film ‘lighter’ and more tonally in step with A New Hope, which this will chronologically lead into (some are saying a space of ten minutes will separate the end of ANH and beginning of RO), after some ‘disastrous’ test screenings which have Disney and LucasFilm quaking in their boots. Sites have claimed a whopping 40% may be re-shot, that a major existing character may be appearing (money is on either Darth Vader or Alden Ehrenreich’s recently cast young Han Solo), that J.J. Abrams is returning to supervise reshoots, and on and on.
Some may be true, most are undoubtedly false, and many will be simply made up horse shit to feed the clickbait machine. The strangest element to all of these reports, however, is how intensely people seem to not just pore over these reports of trouble in cinematic paradise, but almost seem to get off on the idea the powerhouse that is Star Wars may be having issues. How did we get to this?
It almost feels like the beginnings of another Fantastic Furore (excuse the bad pun) which around this time last year saw the internet awash with claims 20th Century Fox’s superhero reboot wasn’t testing well, was being reshot, that director Josh Trank was being cut out of the process, and while granted the resultant film was a hacked to death mess of a movie, badly conceptualised, the circulation of negative rumours did the film no good in the first place. We still don’t know the full story behind what happened with Fantastic Four and in all truth we may never find out, beyond the recent vague admissions from producer Simon Kinberg that the film didn’t get the mixture right, or Trank himself emerges from the cinematic wilderness and goes on the record with his side of the story.
News outlets have been quick to theorise the reason Gareth Edwards may have pulled out of Godzilla 2 is for similar reasons Trank is now returning to small screen filmmaking – he’s a new filmmaker thrown into the gigantic deep end of the franchise Hollywood blockbuster too soon. Now there may be an element of truth to that – frankly who wouldn’t be awed by a Star Wars film being their third picture? To suggest however Edwards has made a hash job of one of 2016’s most anticipated movies, at this stage, is deeply unfair and simply not helpful or productive to a film, let’s face it, we all want to be good. Anyone with an interest in either Star Wars or genre, escapist filmmaking doesn’t want science-fiction like that to fail, especially something as generally beloved as Star Wars – though I’ve become aware in the last year not quite everyone loves it.
The point in terms of Rogue One is that front loading this amount of rumour, hysteria and scepticism on Edwards just won’t help him or the film he’s trying to produce. It’s the equivalent, to use a rare sports analogy, of the media’s obsession with certain England players in the football arena, and their performance; anyone who follows football knows how psychologically the press can be a massive negative in terms of the national team, and the same logic applies with big budget franchise movies. Anyone who heaped masses of scorn on Batman v Superman before seeing it was acting foolishly; it more than deserved criticism once it had been released and we could see it for what it was, but criticising and picking before the fact is simply all about getting an audience hungry for news reading articles and indulging in baseless speculation.
In terms of Rogue One, all we know at this stage is that reshoots are happening, Disney have come out and issued a statement assuring everyone this is normal (which it is) and not to worry, and Christopher McQuarrie has voiced on Twitter (as he often does well) his blunt irritation with the spiral of negativity in the wake of the reshoot announcement. If anyone is likely to know the state of play with Rogue One, it’s him, as a celebrated writer and script doctor. This whole cycle of news outlets clambering on top of one another to report how calamitous a state movies in the public eye are is increasingly becoming a joke, and not a funny one. Even if certain elements of the Rogue One rumour mill are true, we have over six months until the movie drops, which is more than enough time for Edwards, Disney and everyone involved to sort out any niggling issues. Rogue One is a bold experiment for Star Wars, one everyone will want to ensure is as good as it can be.
All I would say is this. The next time you see a wave of news outlets reporting nakedly clickbait headlines decrying the end times for a movie you’re looking forward to, don’t click the link. Wait for official announcements, keep your ears to the ground, and don’t feed the bullshit machine. Because the more we do, the more we’re likely to get a Fantastic Four, or the more we’re likely to see films like Rogue One–films probably just being fine-tuned based on feedback during a production process every movie has–come under intensive, negative pressure which creates a cloud under which the viewing experience has to sit. No one wants that. Not the filmmakers, and certainly not you or I. Let’s make a stand against it together.
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Twitter.