Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a difficult movie to get a handle on for some people. It's standalone, but it's also intricately connected to the first, original Star Wars. It contains no Jedi, but also deals intimately with the Force, perhaps exploring it more significantly than any film before it. Its cast is diverse and exciting, but with very few characters we know anything at all about. It has bits of John Williams themes in the music, but the score is almost entirely brand new.
So after the first footage - about 28 minutes of select scenes of the film - was screened at Skywalker Sound at the Skywalker Ranch, director Gareth Edwards and others were surely looking for the reaction. When it started to hit and was overwhelmingly positive, they were able to breathe deeply.
"It feels good, and it's a relief," Edwards told ComicBook.com at a press event after the screening, "because I feel like the best is yet to come."
Edwards expressed that he really wished the assembled press could just screen the whole movie, "but they wouldn't let me show it to you yet." He feels, however, like the movie is all about the total package, as much as some individual scenes can be appreciated on their own.
"The little clip we showed is not really – the film is built as a whole, so it's really hard to show bits and pieces," he said. "It's a journey that you and the characters go on. So I really can't wait for you to see the rest of the movie, because it builds and builds."
The very future of the Star Wars universe may well be riding on this film, which if successful should open the door to many more "Star Wars Story" films, and a little lighter dependence on the name "Skywalker" in the future.
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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."