Rogue One: A Star Wars Story may not officially be a part of the Skywalker saga that has defined the Star Wars franchise to this point, but it will inevitably face comparisons to the other movies in the series. Fair or unfair, the most common juxtaposition will likely be with the classic original trilogy, the timeline for which begins shortly after the end of the events of Rogue One.
The heroes of Rogue One and the original Star Wars trilogy, of course, have the same evil forces to battle in the Galactic Empire. While Darth Vader won’t be as prevalent in Rogue One as he was in the originals, he will loom ominously over the first standalone movie in the Star Wars franchise, giving it a similarly sinister tone to the Empire’s presence in the originals. Director Gareth Edwards may have just raised expectations for Rogue One, however, with a comparison that may excite you.
According to Comic Book, Edwards was speaking at a press junket for Rogue One when he made the most promising, yet riskiest, comparison he could possibly make: he said he wanted Rogue One to strike a similar tone to The Empire Strikes Back. Edwards stopped short of comparing the two movies in terms of overall quality, but he pointed out some interesting tonal similarities between Rogue One and Empire:
“In terms of Star Wars that I love, I guess we’d be aiming for The Empire Strikes Back [in terms of tone]. While our movie takes itself quite seriously, there’s a lot of fun and humor in it, and hope is the key thing. It’s about trying to achieve something.”
He also compared the group of rebels led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) who band together to steal the Death Star plans to the iconic group of heroes that take on the Empire in the original trilogy:
“The story of this movie is having all these different people from all these different places and backgrounds who have very little in common, they all believe in a good future for the world. … We just tried to make the most realistic version of Star Wars that we’ve ever seen.”
Obviously, Edwards (nor anyone else) is trying to say that Rogue One will be as good as The Empire Strikes Back, which is often cited as the best of the seven Star Wars movies. The darkness of the Empire will indeed underpin Rogue One in a similar fashion, as will the sense that hope keeps the spirit of the rebels alive. Rebellions, after all, “are built on hope,” as Jyn Erso says in Rogue One, and that spirit is an appropriate one to have for a team with such an overwhelmingly daunting task.
Still, it appears that Rogue One will have a different style from the operatic adventures of the originals and feel more like a gritty war movie than a space epic. The Empire’s subversion of hope will inevitably evoke similar comparisons to Empire Strikes Back that Edwards has done himself. Ultimately, it’s important to judge Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on its own merit and not to use the original trilogy as a potentially unattainable measuring stick.