“The reports have been so gratuitous that I have tended to take them with a grain of salt,” wrote Peter S. Myers, an executive at 20th Century Fox, in a 1976 memo to his bosses about the buzz on a movie in production called Star Wars. One studio head had seen a cut with no music or special effects and “just flipped, claiming it is the best movie he has ever seen.” Some other early viewers, according to Myers, raved “that the picture has a look never seen on the screen before.” His conclusion: “Opinion makers and the public will be electrified and it is quite possible Star Wars will emerge the all time box-office champion.”
This prescient document about the 1977 space opera that did end up smashing box-office records comes to mind when reading about the recent rumors surrounding Rogue One, the Star Wars film scheduled for release in December 2016. Page Six reports that an early cut of the film isn’t testing well, and Disney has ordered four weeks of reshoots in July. Headlines with the words “crisis,” “bad,” and “panic” have ensued.
Two competing and purely speculative narratives have taken root in fans’ mind over this development. Rogue One is a standalone spinoff story about Rebel spies stealing Death Star plans before the events of A New Hope; its director, Gareth Edwards, known primarily for an indie creature feature before he led 2014’s surprisingly visionary Godzilla reboot, has promised a harrowing, Force-less war film “about the fact that God’s not coming to save us.” But after the crowd-pleasing heroics of The Force Awakens dominated box offices worldwide, has Disney decided a darker, scarier, film-geek-friendly Star Wars experience is too risky a move? Or has the relatively inexperienced Edwards simply not brought the pieces of a would-be-tentpole movie together with sufficient finesse?