Any Star Was convention that kicks off with a panel gathering veteran and new cast members alongside droids and stormtroopers, then climaxes with a teaser seemingly designed to intrigue new fans while making old fans cry, would seem to have nowhere to go but down. Yet Sunday’s gathering in Anaheim saw another wave of excitement, thanks to a panel dedicated to the standalone Star Wars films.
Set apart from the proper episodes, they’re now officially being referred to as “anthology films” (despite that name not really making much sense, unless the overall series of spin-offs is an anthology and these are installments within it—but I digress). Such films can be set anywhere in the Star Wars timeline, unlike the episodic installments such as this December’s Star Wars: Episode VII–The Force Awakens. (Have you heard anything about that one?)
The Dissolve was stranded in a city far, far away from the proceedings, but a Variety piece about the panel has a number of intriguing details, particularly about the first of the standalone movies: Star Wars: Rogue One starring Felicity Jones. Presided over by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards (the man behind last summer’s Godzilla remake), Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, and Lucasfilm SVP of Development Kiri Hart, the panel confirmed that Rogue One would concern an attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star in the period leading up to the original Star Wars (a.k.a. Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope, but I’m old, so I’m going to keep calling it Star Wars). Edwards and Kennedy also clarified the tone of the film, bringing in Zero Dark Thirty, Black Hawk Down, and Saving Private Ryan as sources of inspiration and referring to it as a war movie above all. (Edwards: “It’s called Star Wars.”)
Then the panel shared the teaser, which someone with a smartphone then shared with the rest of the world. That might not be in the spirit of Celebration, but the genie’s out of the bottle, so if you want to give it a look, The Playlist has it.
The Variety article is well worth a look for more details, including Hart’s reiteration that the standalone films can “vary in scale, they can vary in genre, they can introduce new characters and new places, and they can still be Star Wars.” That sounds like a good way for the series to innovate while still staying close to the tradition, though it does raise the question of how far a Star Wars movie can be pushed before it leaves the Star Wars universe. A gritty, ground-level war movie makes sense, but would a horror movie in which Hoth’s first settlers battle a pack of Wampas? (Wampa? Wampum?) Maybe a Modern Times-inspired slapstick comedy set in an out-of-control droid factory? If anyone wants more, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.