Can Rogue One Make Us Rethink the Prequels?


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“Why are they making another Star Wars prequel?” is not a question anyone seems to be asking about Rogue One.

Disney has strenuously avoided the p-word in all official statements. But make no mistake. Rogue One is a prequel. It takes place right before one of the most successful movies ever made. It features Darth Vader before he attacks the Tantive IV, as well as Mon Mothma before her big Return of the Jedi speech. The film is an origin story—the first Rogue tale, before Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles flew together under that designation.

At the same time, Rogue One is also a sequel. Eleven years ago, Revenge of the Sith ended with chaos throughout the galaxy. The Sith Lord formerly known as Anakin Skywalker looked on as the Empire started building a superweapon capable of ending worlds. Rogue One picks up the Episode III story—and, apparently, carries it right to the beginning of Episode IV.

Now, the Star Wars prequels are controversial. (Let’s understate things, shall we?) They loom large in geek culture as a symbol for what not to do: an excess of green-screen CGI effects, a focus on arcane space politics, a romance with zero chemistry, the Padawan braid, the word “Padawan.” Consensus on J.J. Abrams’s The Force Awakens, on the other hand, is that it recaptured the spirit of the original movies— which is to say, it strenuously avoided the spirit of the prequels.

Rogue One