After an impressive $150 million opening box office weekend, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is by all accounts a huge success for Disney, Lucasfilm, the Star Wars franchise and everyone involved with its production in front of and behind the camera. That sentiment rings doubly true for director Gareth Edwards who arguably had more pressure to deliver a successful film than any Star Wars director going forward and perhaps, even J.J. Abrams who had the daunting task of reigniting passion in the property after a eleven year hiatus.
Had Edwards succeeded in delivering a solid, entertaining movie, but failed to realize a story which fit seamlessly into the franchise’s existing universe, then the movie would most likely had been dark spot on his résumé. It also would have put a damper on Disney’s plans for subsequent standalone Star Wars films – such as the upcoming Han Solo movie, though it’s highly unlikely they would have scrapped any of those projects. Fortunately for everyone involved, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story received across-the-board critical success, which is an amazing feat considering how much extra money and time was pumped into the project for re-shoots and re-edits.
Typically, studios find that one magical combination with a director that it’s almost a no-brainer they should helm another installment of the franchise. Sam Raimi, Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Peter Jackson and others all had the luxury of directing multiple entries into popular franchises like Spider-Man, Batman, Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings. In most instances, each of these directors were brought back to tell a new story in their respective property’s mythos (the exceptions being Nolan and Jackson). However, this rehire method isn’t always a sure-fire way to ensure a successful, quality movie.
From the in-the-trenches camera work, to the strong performance of the core cast members, to the well-told story, to the near-flawless integration of well-established characters and canon from the Star Wars Universe – there’s very little, if anything, to find wrong with Rogue One and it absolutely reflects Edwards’ voice throughout. So why do we think Gareth Edwards should never direct another movie in the Star Wars franchise?
The purpose of these standalone Star Wars movies is to tell parts of the story that were otherwise only available via opening crawls or companion novels (which the vast majority of viewers have not read). Unlike Episodes VII, VIII or IX, they aren’t meant to end on a cliffhanger or tell their complete stories over the course of several films. Instead, they’re supposed to wrap up their story in three or four acts, while simultaneously connecting to already established Star Wars lore. Edwards accomplished this task quite effectively, so there’s no reason for him to continue telling a story he’s already finished.
Finishing the story was a must for directors like Nolan and Jackson who planned to tell their tales across several films, but for Edwards, that was never his intention. There are areas of his story only hinted upon, such as Jyn’s (Felicity Jones) training with Saw and how she got to be on the Imperial prison transport, but those are stories that aren’t a high priority to be told. If Disney does decide to tell them, then it should be with a director who isn’t emotionally invested and can bring a fresh, new perspective to the property – much like Edwards did with Rogue One.
Edwards has managed to do something not many Star Wars directors have done – capture Kyber crystal-powered lightning in a bottle. For everything that could’ve gone wrong with Rogue One, it didn’t. That in and of itself is an outstanding accomplishment, but he took it one step further, Instead of simply “not failing”, Edwards succeeded on multiple levels, and Rogue One is definitely the current highlight of his feature film resume. That’s not to say he could never top what he’s accomplished here in a movie outside of the Star Wars franchise, but the odds are against him ever reaching Rogue One levels of success on a different Star Wars movie.
That doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done, just that it’s highly unlikely. Audiences, really humans in general, are creatures of comparison. We like to say, “Rogue One is better/worse than The Force Awakens” or “This movie is better/worse than his last.” Inevitably, that will happen if Edwards steps back behind the Star Wars camera. It happen to Lucas with the ill-fated (oft underappreciated Star Wars prequels) and we’re sure everyone would agree, no one wants to see that happen. Edwards needs to step out from the Star Wars kitchen, allowing people to remember and appreciate the excellent science fiction feast he prepared for them.
When all is said and done, obviously we can’t control what Disney does when choosing directors for the remaining Star Wars films and if Edwards is asked to return we would still be excited. Edwards has undoubtedly established himself as a competent and skilled director worthy of handling another Star Wars installment in the future. Ultimately, it limits the voice of the franchise to only one person’s tone and vision, often handicapping the final product to be less than what it deserves to be.
Do you think Gareth Edwards should continue to direct movies in the Star Wars franchise or do you agree having be a successful one-and-done director would be the best for everyone?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters now.