December 19, 2016
[Will contain spoilers for Rogue One and Star Wars in general. Deal with it.]’
So Rogue One has happened. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it, on reflection, is purely meta. While it was the eighth film made in the franchise, it is logically the first to watch. (At least per my personal canon, a version of machete order, which we will explore below.)
But because Rogue One was the eighth made, it didn’t have anything to set up about the world. So it doesn’t. It assumes the viewer knows what the Force is, what Jedi are, and contains any number of knowing winks for fans. Which makes it kind of fascinating to consider as the first film in the sequence, as if you knew nothing of the world. This is an accidental effect, but makes the film far more interesting.
(I admit I haven’t watched A New Hope since Rogue One, so this is all just musings.)
From this perspective Rogue One becomes a kind of film that Hollywood doesn’t make. One lacking in over exposition of everything for dummies. One letting questions remain unanswered. One which invests in creating depth and then throws it away. A preamble rather than a complete entity. Storytelling that is taking its time.
My personal version of machete order (moose order? moose canon!) is as follows:
Star Wars (A New Hope, episode IV, original theatrical edit)
Empire Strikes Back (episode V, original theatrical edit)
The Phantom Edit (a condensed version of Episodes I, II, and III, into one film, which, while not perfect, is far more watchable than the original versions, manages to omit most of the awfulness, and which I am happy to accept as canon)
Return of the Jedi (episode VI)
The Force Awakens (episode VII)
So this is basically Machete Order (which is worth reading through if you are nerd enough to be reading this and if you haven’t already) with the phantom edit subbed in, and adding the films from the last year as bookends.
Now: consider Rogue One as the starting point for the entire story.
The Force is hinted at, a religion that has power and meaning for some characters, but is never explained. Jedi are mentioned in passing, and their appearance is foreshadowed, but we don’t know what they are. Vader’s final scene in Rogue is a brutal pre-introduction to his entrance in A New Hope. Vader, based on the glimpses from Rogue alone, is a mysterious and monstrous figure.
We are flung into A New Hope with meaningful stakes. Lots of people died to get us this far. The tenuous tangential opening storytelling of A New Hope as we follow the droids becomes an extension of the roundabout introduction of Rogue One. It seems like it is all about these Death Star plans, and the struggle against the Empire, but, really, this is the beginning of Luke Skywalker’s arc, and the story of the Force and the Jedi. (As I have noted before, the prequels failed mostly because they abandoned Luke’s arc – The Force Awakens succeeds essentially because it continues it.) Luke is unaware of all that has gone before, as are all the major players other than Leia.
Everything changes when Obi-Wan starts teaching Luke about the Force. The story takes on a new dimension. It is no longer just the story of a rebellion against the Empire, but a true tale of good vs evil, with far higher stakes.
Hmm. That’s as far as my thinking goes right now.
So, seen in this accidental light, I think Rogue One becomes kinda cool. I guess I’ll find out someday when I watch them all in Moose Canon order. 😉