When it comes to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and 2018's Han Solo film (plus an as-yet-unrevealed one coming in 2020), Lucasfilm is treading new ground. By making standalone films in the Star Wars universe, they hope to open up that world and allow themselves to tell new types of stories, stretching across new types of genres, for years (and hopefully generations) to come.
That means working with directors who have a distinct and solid vision, and making sure they're letting them make their movies, not just Lucasfilm or Star Wars movies.
"I would just say that I think what's really great about the fact that we're now moving into these standalone movies is that we're bringing in, essentially auteur directors, like Gareth. We're really supporting those directors and their vision," Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said of the new line of films during the Rogue One press junket. She seemed enthusiastic that bringing in people like Gareth Edwards for Rogue One and Chris Miller and Phil Lord for Han Solo would allow for all-new stories to be told, and giving them the freedom they need is essential.
"We're looking at each of these movies without a rulebook. We're basically saying, 'okay, here's a new story, a new movie, a new approach, and what do we want to do?' We're very open to that. I think it very much is in the spirit of what George Lucas did to begin with. He inspired ILM innovation - technical innovation was extremely important to him. It's very much a part of the culture of this company," Kennedy said.
The chatter about Rogue One has been that it's essentially a war movie that's set in the Star Wars universe, more akin to WWII and Vietnam War films than anything we've seen in the Star Wars saga. Han Solo meanwhile is very early on, but people associated with the film have already talked about the "unique vision" of the directors.
There's a third Star Wars Story film on the docket as well, but that currently doesn't have a character or director, as far as anyone knows. Originally, there was reportedly a Boba Fett film from Josh Trank in development, though he pulled out of the project and it was put on the back burner.
The idea of giving directors room to breathe in the Star Wars universe should make fans happy, and seems to be something they're doing in at least a limited capacity in the Star Wars saga episodic films, as well. Rian Johnson both wrote and directed Star Wars: Episode VIII after all, and is known for his very specific vision in his own works.
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits US theaters December 16, 2016. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star. The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."