Finally making a sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy, no matter how late, was a pretty safe bet for new franchise owner Disney. Adding returning cast favorites to The Force Awakens, as well as stunning visuals and a heavy dose of nostalgic callbacks, made it even more of a sure thing. In contrast, this weekend’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story plays on the outer edges of the Lucas sandbox, a standalone story that doesn’t count on the Skywalker legacy for narrative.
Sequels, prequels, and reboots are typically embraced by studios because there’s presumably a built-in audience. While it’s true that a large portion of a franchise fandom will trek out on opening weekend to see another installment, no matter the early critical reviews, how well that fandom reacts to the film can impact its longevity and profitability in the long term. It can also affect whether another movie in that fictional universe ever gets made again.
While all of the Star Wars films have made box office numbers many franchises only dream about, most fans were extremely critical of the prequel films that aired between 1999 and 2005. Not everyone felt compelled to dismiss the films completely, however, and that includes Riz Ahmed, who plays cargo pilot and Empire defector Bodhi Rook in Rogue One. He recently told Screen Crush that he doesn’t agree that Star Wars is bad at prequels.
“People say that, but I did not have a massive problem with the prequels at all. There were some elements that stood out. Jar Jar Binks, I didn’t enjoy him as a character. But people had a problem with them because they weren’t broad and tough and cheek. I enjoy that. I enjoy the fact that it was about grown-up politics and the dissolution of the League of Nations and World War and the rise of fascism. I really enjoyed that and I really enjoyed Clone Wars. I really don’t see what the big problem is, to be quite honest.”
It could be considered self-preservation for Ahmed to insist that the franchise doesn’t have any weak links, but he does have consistent reasoning. The actor has repeatedly expressed his love of the unique “grittiness” and “edge” to the Rogue One film, and when pressed, confessed he prefers The Empire Strikes Back to the first Star Wars film, because it’s “a little bit darker.” It’s not a crazy idea to think there’s a place for all different kinds of movies in this expansive movie universe.
“If all Star Wars movies were the same, it’d be boring. I hope each new movie adds a new dimension, and I think that’s certainly what Rogue One does.”
While the prequel films were definitely flawed, it’s also fair to say that high expectations can often make fans hypercritical. A decade later, it may be easier to see some of the ways that The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith expanded on the mythology and deepened viewers’ understanding of and connection to the major characters. The good news for Ahmed is that early reviews for Rogue One are mostly positive, so hopefully it won’t take 10 years for it to earn a respected place alongside the most beloved installments in the Star Wars franchise.
Source: Screen Crush