The newest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, breaks new ground for the franchise in a few ways (see: no opening crawl), but it also features several familiar elements that fans know and love. The Force has a prominent role to play, Darth Vader will show up, and there will also be a big space battle featuring X-wings and TIE fighters. When a film series has this many installments, the trick for the creative team is to find fresh ways to present the old staples so the latest movies avoid feeling like a rehash. Since Lucasfilm intends to make Star Wars an annual occurrence, this will be crucial if the galaxy far, far away is to remain viable for years to come.
Several previous Star Wars movies have featured space combat, so by now there’s little filmmakers can do to wow audiences with the concept. In this day and age, the mere spectacle of the visual effects isn’t necessarily enough since the novelty has worn off. For Rogue One‘s critical Shield Gate set piece (which has been teased in the trailers), director Gareth Edwards had no choice put to pull out all the stops and create a new kind of experience for audiences: first-person X-wing flight.
Speaking with EW, Edwards explained his approach to filming the X-wing scenes and how it felt like the ships were “really flying” during production:
“When we were filming the X-wing footage in the film, we had the X-wing [cockpit] mounted to a gimbal so it could move around, like it was really flying. Then all around were the screens, in 180 degrees, that were projecting space and this pre-animated flight path as the X-wing was moving around, like it was really flying.”
Admittedly, Star Wars has had POV shots during space battles before, most famously in A New Hope‘s Death Star trench run. However, it sounds like Rogue One will be taking things to the next level by offering moviegoers a full, 180-degree panoramic view of the action. Edwards’ camera will be free-flowing, almost a documentary style, as opposed to the stationary cinematography in the earlier films. That should prove to be very exciting for fans to see up on the big screen, especially since Rogue One will be playing in IMAX 3D locations. Star Wars is always a must-see in theaters do to its status as blockbuster entertainment, but it sounds like this particular sequence will be enhanced with the premium format.
Edwards also discussed what it was like to be behind-the-camera for these scenes, implying that they will rank amongst the most immersive in the whole franchise:
“The second it was over, I got so transported to a galaxy far, far away that I had forgotten I was in Pinewood [Studios], you know? I had forgotten that I was just Gareth with a camera. I mean, I thought I was in this space battle.”
Rogue One‘s journey to completion was quite difficult, as the cast and crew had to reassemble over the summer for extensive reshoots, but it’s nice to hear that Edwards was able to have fun while working on what is unquestionably his most pressure-packed film to date. Many of the people working on the new Star Wars movies in the Disney era grew up with the original trilogy and are longtime fans of the galaxy far, far away, so getting the opportunity to lend their talents to the beloved franchise is a special one indeed. If Rogue One‘s space battle is even half as thrilling to watch as it was for Edwards to shoot, audiences will be in for a tremendous treat.