Few things in pop culture are as instantly recognizable as the Star Wars opening crawl. To date, the seven films in the franchise have all started this way; three paragraphs in yellow font soar up the screen as John Williams' rousing musical score booms through the speakers. It's an efficient way to set the context for the movie to follow, establishing the basic conflict and state of the characters before the adventure truly starts.
The crawl is such a part of Star Wars' DNA that even the books and comics feature a variation of the idea to guide readers into the narrative. However, fans may soon see a piece of Star Wars media that comes without a text crawl. Lucasfilm is looking for ways to differentiate the Skywalker family saga films (the numbered episodes) from the new standalone Star Wars Story label, which kicks off this December with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. After some discussion, it appears that the opening crawl is getting axed for the spinoffs and won't be a part of Gareth Edwards' film.
Speaking with ET during Star Wars Celebration 2016 this past weekend, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy addressed the matter, citing the first moments of the Rogue One panel (in which the New Hope text crawl was cut off) as an illustration of what's to come:
“You know, we’re in the midst of talking about it, but I don’t think these films will have an opening crawl. I think that’s what we kind of telegraphed at the beginning of the event today."
Edwards was more mum on the subject, expressing amusement over the high level of interest in the text crawl's hypothetical appearance:
“I think basically there’s a lot of things that I probably can’t talk about, is probably the safest way to answer that. The idea is this film is supposed to be different than the saga films…the whole crawl of it all — it’s funny people are fascinated on that.”
Rogue One presents something of an interesting challenge for Lucasfilm, being the first live-action spinoff that is disconnected from the main narrative people have been following for nearly 40 years. Some casual moviegoers are a little confused about where in the timeline it takes place, meaning the studio has to put together a killer marketing campaign that clearly states this is a prequel. As revealed by EW last month, Rogue One's events primarily take place 34 years before The Force Awakens, featuring another cast of all-new characters for fans to familiarize themselves with. Once Darth Vader starts popping up in trailers and TV spots, things should become clearer, but this will still be a great test to see if Disney's plan to annualize Star Wars is viable longterm.
Simply put, Lucasfilm had to do something to divide saga from standalone. Removing the text crawl is perhaps the easiest way to accomplish that. Edwards has repeatedly said it was his intention to make a war film in a galaxy far, far away - a departure from the typical space opera/adventure tone of the main episodes. There's no denying that the Star Wars theme invokes a particular feeling for the audience, one that could be at odds with what Edwards is trying to achieve. What makes the idea of the spinoff films so appealing is that they can blend multiple genres and put a different spin on the property, so there shouldn't be an obligation to stick so strictly to the formula. The Rogue One team has the freedom to go off in a new direction if they so choose.
If this indeed the case, it will be interesting to see how Edwards sets the stage for his film. Even the Clone Wars TV series featured old school news reels to give fans updates. If Rogue One just began with its opening sequence, it would be a truly unprecedented move for the franchise. Should the movie include a fresh take on the concept (i.e. just a title card with some text), it wouldn't be all that surprising. Either way, Rogue One will probably create the template that the future anthologies follow, completing the important task of separating the saga films from the standalone projects.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens in December 16, 2016, followed by Star Wars: Episode VIII on December 15, 2017, the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25, 2018, Star Wars: Episode IX in 2019, and the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.