After months of waiting, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has finally arrived, and it seems to be yet another winner for Disney in 2016. The first Star Wars spinoff is poised to have the second-highest box office opening in the history of December (behind only The Force Awakens), and those commercial prospects should only be boosted by the positive critical reception. Many pundits are in agreement that Rogue One is a thrilling, entertaining blockbuster that breaks new creative and aesthetic ground for the beloved franchise – setting the stage for more anthology films in the future.
One of the ways director Gareth Edwards eschewed Star Wars tradition was making Rogue One the first film in the series to not feature an opening text crawl. The previous seven movies all used a crawl as a creative expositional tool to establish the basic context for the narrative. This was an intentional decision on the part of Lucasfilm, as they were looking for ways to differentiate the standalones from the main saga films. Throughout the year, there was a debate on whether or not Rogue One should have a crawl, but from the sound of it, the studio made their minds up early on in development.
Answering a fan question on Twitter, Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo revealed that an opening crawl was never part of the screenplay. The team was open to the possibility as Rogue One came together, but they ultimately determined to go in a different direction:
The prologue Hidalgo refers to is the opening sequence that’s set 15 years prior to the main action, where Director Orson Krennic finds Galen Erso and forces him to complete the Death Star. That essentially takes the place of the crawl, setting up the basic plot and character motivations that will be explored further in the film proper. Some may consider it sacrilege that Rogue One is sans text, but the spinoff is arguably better off without it. Not only is this a time period in galactic history that has been covered extensively in an entire trilogy, the space opera/adventure tone the crawl sets (with John Williams’ main theme) could clash with the gritty war drama feel Edwards was striving for. The point of the anthology films is that they have the leeway to broaden Star Wars‘ horizons in ways the saga films necessarily can’t, so they shouldn’t have to include certain tropes for the sake of familiarity.
As we’ve argued before, the greater priority for Rogue One was to be a quality production, and by all accounts, it was successful in that regard. The opening crawl has been an integral part of the Star Wars franchise since 1977, so it no doubt will be odd for moviegoers that it isn’t in Rogue One. At the same time, Edwards and company proved that the galaxy far, far away can thrive on the big screen without relying on the tale of the Skywalker family. If Disney is to keep making new movies every year for the foreseeable future, then this response is all they could have hoped for.